back to article User to chatbot: Help! My kid has COVID! Chatbot to user: Always wear a condom

A chatbot used by Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) has been switched off after providing inappropriate answers to residents' queries on COVID-related matters. Screenshots of gaffes from the chatbot tool appeared online earlier this week. Here's an example of the errors on offer: a suggestion that practicing safe sex is …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Removed

    Poor Jamie couldn’t talk and chew gum^ at the same time.

    ^ Generally illegal in Singapore

  2. redpawn

    Condom

    I hope Emma uses one so she doesn't catch what Jamie has.

  3. Allan George Dyer
    Paris Hilton

    "The chatbot was conceived in 2014"

    If only the Ministry of Health had used a condom in 2014, this could have been prevented.

    1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

      or abstinence, for at least the whole duration of her female partner's pregnancy.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where did that chatbot answer come from?

    "Use a condom throughout the duration of your female partner's pregnancy?" Never mind that this isn't the answer to the question that was asked, to what question is that the right answer?

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Where did that chatbot answer come from?

      Testing positive for the Zikka virus apparently.

    2. I am David Jones
      Joke

      Re: Where did that chatbot answer come from?

      It is sensible advice for anyone with a pregnant partner - you don’t want to get two birds up the duff!

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    Boris to launch new health chatbot for England

    Ask Dido!

    *Health being a devolved function means Wales, Scotland and NI miss-out on the one-size-fits all top-down thinking that people in England have to put up with

    1. pavel.petrman

      Re: Boris to launch new health chatbot for England

      This reminds me of: Voice recognition technology? In a lift? In Scotland?!

      1. Wally Dug

        Re: Boris to launch new health chatbot for England

        Yes, Burnistoun's lift sketch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqAu-DDlINs

        (And their Sarcasmaolics sketch is brilliant, too https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcOfFeKXcd4)

      2. Frank Bitterlich

        Re: Boris to launch new health chatbot for England

        You mean in a Happy Vertical People Transporter, right?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would anybody think it's a good idea for a chatbot to give health advice? The people who approved that are dangerously incompetent.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Why would anybody think it's a good idea for a chatbot to give health advice? The people who approved that are dangerously incompetent.

      I'd say they have a medical issue with their brains.

    2. Plest Silver badge
      Happy

      Hmmmm

      Moronic PHBs who think AI is at the level of Deep Thought from HHGTTG?!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm

        So you have to know what the ACTUAL question is before you can understand the answer...

        Makes sense. If the root of the root of the question was "How can I stop my children getting COVID?" then the condom answer makes sense. After all, there's a billion things a person could avoid worrying about if they didn't have any children in the first place!

    3. Cederic Silver badge

      I recall machine diagnosis of many medical issues was demonstrated to have fewer errors than asking doctors to do it.

      I'd still like a doctor (or other suitable medical professional) to act as a common sense filter before anything reaches the public though.

  7. IGotOut Silver badge

    Ii can't see the problem.

    They look exactly like the correct answers you'd get on any forum or social media.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Ii can't see the problem.

      That's why I don't use "social" media.

  8. imanidiot Silver badge

    NLPs suck.

    ALL NLPs suck. I've never encountered one that can actually process and understand launguage properly. When context matters all bets are off with these programs.

    1. Wally Dug

      Re: NLPs suck.

      Ah ken whit ye mean, man. Ah cannae get they hingmies tae unnerston me, ken? An Ah dinnae ken fur why.

      1. gerdesj Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: NLPs suck.

        If I spelt phonetically what I say then I too could fool a machine even faster than normal.

        Get back in your box, you dafty you, or dig out the big guns and go fully Brythonic 8)

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: NLPs suck.

          That wasn't phonetic. That's how Irvine Walsh wrote Trainspotting.

          (Which is also why the film is excellent and the book is horrendous)

  9. Plest Silver badge
    Pint

    This world is doomed!

    This is what happens when those who don't know what level real AI truly is at right now and order developers to hook up some crappy psuedo-AI to a chatbot, you get very dangerous results like this. Not everyone is smart and questions advice, some people don't know better and will follow whatever advice they get, especially from an online system.

    If people are stupid enough to drink diluted bleach to wash away COVID when it says it was a "medical expert" on social media, they're not going to question an expert AI chatbot!

  10. Jedit Silver badge
    Joke

    "practicing safe sex is the way to help a child with COVID"

    To be fair here, if the caller had always worn a condom his son wouldn't have COVID now.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: "practicing safe sex is the way to help a child with COVID"

      Wearing a condom *while* your partner is pregnant doesn't stop them from giving birth, or getting pregnant in the first place.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "practicing safe sex is the way to help a child with COVID"

      I always practice safe sex. After all, practice makes perfect!

      1. I am David Jones

        Re: "practicing safe sex is the way to help a child with COVID"

        Safe sex is boring

        https://xkcd.com/414/

  11. DS999 Silver badge
    Trollface

    A condom can prevent covid

    If worn over your head!

  12. Dave 15

    I guess

    A condom over your head protects against covid as well as any mask or face shield... Though you might die of asphyxiation instead

    1. DS999 Silver badge
      Devil

      If you die from covid

      You are also dying from asphyxiation when your lungs become basically non-functional. But a much more prolonged and horrible death than the asphyxiation from the condom over your head!

  13. spold

    Update

    >>>

    Requests for comment from The Register to both MOH and GovTech have gone unanswered

    <<<

    They just answered... "would you like to come back to my place bouncy, bouncy?".

  14. doublelayer Silver badge

    Do chatbots ever work?

    Has anyone reading this ever used a chatbot successfully? The only times I've gotten what I wanted was when I really wanted a link to information, there wasn't one, but a suggested question was what I needed to type for the chatbot to cough it up*. For situations where the bot had to understand me, it usually didn't work and most often wasn't at all serviceable. Chatbots cannot replace humans for actual complex support cases, but I don't even think they can for the basics.

    *Note to chatbot developers: the anecdote I mention is not a successful result. Put your links on the page so I don't have to hunt for them.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Do chatbots ever work?

      "The only times I've gotten what I wanted was when I really wanted a link to information, there wasn't one, but a suggested question was what I needed to type for the chatbot to cough it up*."

      That's what I use them for -- an inferior kind of search box, but maybe the only one available. Even the dreaded Site Map usually gives better results.

  15. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Typical, I get the blame for everything

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