Historical Figures Chat

Released: January 2023
Occurred: January 2023

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Historical Figures, an iPhone app that lets people speak to famous figures from the past, is sparking controversy by allowing 'conversations' with some of history's most infamous figures that generate inaccurate, contradictory and occasionally offensive results.

According to Historial Figures, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels claimed he 'did not hate Jews' (Goebbels was a key architect of the Final Solution), former FBI director J Edgar Hoover says his mother died when he was nine years-old (she lived until she was 78), and serial child rapist Jimmy Savile denied ever abusing anyone.

Chaddha told Vice he reckons Historial Figures is 'extremely valuable to teachers and students'. But historians slammed it, with one calling it 'vile', another beseeching Apple to 'remove this trash from the App Store', whilst another expert said it should not 'go anywhere near a classroom'.

Chaddha developed Historical Figures using OpenAI's GPT-3 large language model as a foundation. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman admitted GPT-3 has 'serious weaknesses and sometimes makes very silly mistakes.'

The app is free, though users have to pay to talk with Adolf Hitler and some other high-profile figures.

Operator: Sidhant Chaddha; Apple
Developer: Sidhant Chaddha
Country: USA
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Talk to historical figures
Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Mis/disinformation; Safety
Transparency: