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Chinese AI chatbots wish to be your emotional support

Chinese AI chatbots wish to be your emotional support

Chinese ChatGPT-like bots are having a moment straight away.

As I reported last week, Baidu became the primary Chinese tech company to roll out its large language model—called Ernie Bot—to most people, following a regulatory approval from the Chinese government. Previously, access required an application or was limited to corporate clients. You possibly can read more concerning the news here.

I actually have to confess the Chinese public has reacted more passionately than I had expected. In accordance with Baidu, the Ernie Bot mobile app reached 1 million users within the 19 hours following the announcement, and the model responded to greater than 33.42 million user questions in 24 hours, averaging 23,000 questions per minute.

Since then, 4 more Chinese corporations—the facial-recognition giant SenseTime and three young startups, Zhipu AI, Baichuan AI, and MiniMax—have also made their LLM chatbot products broadly available. But some more experienced players, like Alibaba and iFlytek, are still waiting for the clearance.

Like many others, I downloaded the Ernie Bot app last week to try it out. I used to be curious to learn how it’s different from its predecessors like ChatGPT. 

What I noticed first was that Ernie Bot does loads more hand-holding. Unlike ChatGPT’s public app or website, which is actually only a chat box, Baidu’s app has loads more features which might be designed to onboard and interact latest users. 

Under Ernie Bot’s chat box, there’s an countless list of prompt suggestions—like “Provide you with a reputation for a baby” and “Generating a piece report.” There’s one other tab called “Discovery” that displays over 190 pre-selected topics, including gamified challenges (“Persuade the AI boss to boost my salary”) and customised chatting scenarios (“Compliment me”).

It seems to me that a serious challenge for Chinese AI corporations is that now, with government approval to speak in confidence to the general public, they really want to users and keep them interested. To many individuals, chatbots are a novelty straight away. But that novelty will eventually wear off, and the apps have to ensure that people produce other reasons to remain.

One clever thing Baidu has done is to incorporate a tab for user-generated content within the app. Locally forum, I can see the questions other users have asked the app, in addition to the text and image responses they got. A few of them are on point and fun, while others are way off base, but I can see how this inspires users to attempt to input prompts themselves and work to enhance the answers.

Left: a successful generation from the prompt “Pikachu wearing sunglasses and smoking cigars.” Right: the Ernie Bot did not generate a picture reflecting the literal or figurative meaning of 狗尾续貂, “To affix a dog’s tail to a sable coat,” which is a Chinese idiom for a disappointing sequel to a fantastic work.

One other feature that caught my attention was Ernie Bot’s efforts to introduce role-playing.

Considered one of the highest categories on the “Discovery” page asks the chatbot to reply within the voice of pre-trained personas including Chinese historical figures like the traditional emperor Qin Shi Huang, living celebrities like Elon Musk, anime characters, and imaginary romantic partners. (I asked the Musk bot who it’s; it answered: “I’m Elon Musk, a passionate, focused, action-oriented, workaholic, dream-chaser, irritable, boastful, harsh, stubborn, intelligent, emotionless, highly goal-oriented, highly stress-resistant, and quick-learner person.”

I actually have to say they don’t appear to be thoroughly trained; “Qin Shi Huang” and “Elon Musk” each broke character in a short time after I asked them to comment on serious matters just like the state of AI development in China. They only gave me bland, Wikipedia-style answers.

But the preferred persona—already utilized by over 140,000 people, in accordance with the app—known as “the considerate elder sister.” Once I asked “her” what her persona is like, she answered that she’s gentle, mature, and good at listening to others. Once I then asked who trained her persona, she responded that she was trained by “a bunch of skilled psychology experts and artificial-intelligence developers” and “based on evaluation of a considerable amount of language and emotional data.”

“I won’t answer a matter in a robotic way like unusual AIs, but I gives you more considerate support by genuinely caring about your life and emotional needs,” she also told me.

I’ve noticed that Chinese AI corporations have a selected fondness for emotional-support AI. Xiaoice, considered one of the primary Chinese AI assistants, made its name by allowing users to customize the right romantic partner. And one other startup, Timedomain, left a trail of broken hearts this yr when it shut down its AI boyfriend voice service. Baidu appears to be establishing Ernie Bot for a similar type of use. 

I’ll be watching this slice of the chatbot space grow with equal parts intrigue and anxiety. To me, it’s some of the interesting possibilities for AI chatbots. But this is more difficult than writing code or answering math problems; it’s a completely different task to ask them to supply emotional support, act like humans, and stay in character on a regular basis. And if the businesses pull it off, there can be more risks to think about: What happens when humans actually construct deep emotional connections with the AI?

Meet up with China

1. The mysterious advanced chip in Huawei’s newly released smartphone has sparked many questions and far speculation about China’s progress in chip-making technology. (Washington Post $)

2. Meta took down the biggest Chinese social media influence campaign to this point, which included over 7,000 Facebook accounts that bashed the US and other adversaries of China. Like its predecessors, the campaign did not attract attention. (Recent York Times $)

3. Lawmakers across the US are concerned concerning the idea of China buying American farmland for espionage, but actual land purchase data from 2022 shows that only a few deals were made by Chinese entities. (NBC News)

4. A Chinese government official was sentenced to life in prison on charges of corruption, including fabricating a Bitcoin mining company’s electricity consumption data. (Cointelegraph)

5. Terry Gou, the billionaire founding father of Foxconn, is running as an independent candidate in Taiwan’s 2024 presidential election. (Associated Press)

6. The common Chinese citizen’s life span is now 2.2 years longer due to the efforts prior to now decade to scrub up air pollution. (CNN)

7. Sinopec, the key Chinese oil company, predicts that gasoline demand in China will peak in 2023 due to the surging demand for electric vehicles. (Bloomberg $)

8. Chinese sextortion scammers are flooding Twitter comment sections and making the location almost unusable for Chinese speakers. (Remainder of World)

Lost in translation

The favourite influencer of Chinese grandmas just got banned from social media. “Xiucai,” a 39-year-old man from Maozhou city, posted a whole bunch of videos on Douyin where he acts shy in China’s countryside, subtly flirts with the camera, and lip-synchs old songs. While the younger generations find these videos cringe-worthy, his look and magnificence amassed him a big following amongst middle-aged and senior women. He attracted over 12 million followers in only over two years, over 70% of whom were female and nearly half older than 50. In May, a 72-year-old fan took a 1,000-mile solo train ride to Xiucai’s hometown just so she could meet him in real life.

But last week, his account was suddenly banned from Douyin, which said Xiucai had violated some platform rules. Local taxation authorities in Maozhou said he was reported for tax evasion, however the investigation hasn’t concluded yet, in accordance with Chinese publication National Business Day by day. His disappearance made more young social media users aware of his cultish popularity. As those in China’s silver generation learn to make use of social media and even develop into hooked on it, they’ve also develop into a lucrative goal for content creators.

Yet one more thing

Ignore bubble tea. The trendiest drink in China this week is a latte mixed with , the potent Chinese liquor. Named “sauce-flavored latte,” the eccentric invention is a collaboration between Luckin Coffee, China’s largest cafe chain, and Kweichow Moutai, China’s most famous liquor brand. News of its release lit up Chinese social media since it feels like an absolute abomination, however the very absurdity of the concept makes people need to know what it actually tastes like. Dear readers in China, for those who’ve tried it, are you able to let me know what it was like? I would like to know, for research reasons.


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