The aim was to "experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding," with Tay able to learn from "her" conversations and get progressively "smarter."
But Tay proved a smash hit with racists, trolls, and online troublemakers, who persuaded Tay to blithely use racial slurs, defend white-supremacist propaganda, and even outright call for genocide.
Microsoft has now taken Tay offline for "upgrades," and it is deleting some of the worst tweets — though many still remain. It's important to note that Tay's racism is not a product of Microsoft or of Tay itself. Tay is simply a piece of software that is trying to learn how humans talk in a conversation. Tay doesn't even know it exists, or what racism is. The reason it spouted garbage is because racist humans on Twitter quickly spotted a vulnerability — that Tay didn't understand what it was talking about — and exploited it.
Nonetheless, it is hugely embarrassing for the company.
In one highly publicised tweet, which has since been deleted, Tay said: "bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. donald trump is the only hope we've got." In another, responding to a question, she said, "ricky gervais learned totalitarianism from adolf hitler, the inventor of atheism."
If you ask me, Tay was a near-perfect success of emulating the thought patterns of your average twenty-something Twitter troll spouting racist garbage. Tay performed beautifully, frankly. And of course she likes Trump.
Let me know when the "more liberal than thou" version is out so I can use it to anticipate the outrage of the purity caucus.