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City chatbot gives entrepreneurs illegal advice: Adams says it's OK


Alina Prikhodko

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams defends the city's new artificial intelligence chatbot. According to CTV News, in recent days he has started dispensing wrong answers and dangerous advice to business owners that could lead to breaking the law if followed.

In October 2023 chatbot MyCity launched as a pilot project, it was touted as the first citywide AI technology that aims to provide business owners with “actionable and reliable information.” You just need to make a request on the online portal.

Five months after its launch, it's clear that while the bot appears to be authoritative, the information it provides on housing policy, workers' rights and business regulations is incomplete at best and "dangerously inaccurate" at worst.

“Some places are making mistakes, and we need to fix that,” Adams said, emphasizing that this was a pilot program. “When you use technology, you need to implement it in a real environment to find and eliminate any shortcomings.”

AI technology and people

Technology fanatic

Adams has always been a strong advocate for bringing unproven technology to the city, with optimism that hasn't always panned out. Last year he placed it in the Times Square subway station. huge robot vaguely ovoid in shape, which he hoped would help the police curb crime. After about five months he dismissed, and passengers noted that he never did anything and could not even use the stairs.

On the subject: Automated robotaxis will appear on New York roads

The chatbot is still online and continues to periodically provide incorrect answers. He said that store owners can freely switch to cashless payments, apparently having forgotten about what was adopted in 2020 law, which prohibits stores from refusing to accept cash. He still believes that the minimum wage in the city is $15 an hour, although from 2024 it will be increased to $16.

The chatbot, which runs on Microsoft's Azure AI service, appears to have lost its way due to problems common to so-called generative AI platforms. It, like ChatGPT, sometimes makes up information or claims lies with 1000% certainty.

Some errors

Microsoft declined to say what caused the problems but said it was working with the city to fix them. In a statement, the city's Office of Technology and Innovation said that "as early as next week, we expect to significantly reduce the number of inaccurate responses." Neither Microsoft nor the mayor's office responded to questions about what caused the errors and how they can be fixed.

The city updated the warnings on the MyCity chatbot website and noted that “its responses may sometimes be inaccurate or incomplete.” They asked businesses to “not use his responses as legal or professional advice.”

Andrew Riggi, director of NYC Hospitality Allianc, which advocates for thousands of restaurant owners, said he and other entrepreneurs are puzzled by the chatbot's responses.

“I applaud the city's attempt to use artificial intelligence to help businesses, but it has to work,” he stressed. But according to Riggi, following some of the bot's recommendations can lead to serious legal consequences. “If I ask a question and then have to contact my lawyers to find out if the answer is correct, that defeats the whole purpose of this innovation.”

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