If you didn’t hear about Microsoft’s recent artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot misfortune as the story was unfolding, you won’t have to search hard on the web to find out about it.
As an experiment, the tech giant set a chatbot loose on Twitter. Named Tay, the AI programme was designed to interact with Twitter users and to get ‘smarter’ as more people communicated with it.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, web users fed the chatbot a series of controversial remarks, which it in turn incorporated into its own comments and responses. After just 16 hours, Microsoft was forced to shut the programme down and apologise for any offence it had caused.
You might be wondering what young entrepreneurs can learn from a poorly executed experiment in AI research. But in fact this high-profile and embarrassing blunder highlights a number of important issues that I think all aspiring businesspeople should be aware of.
A solid plan is essential
The engineers behind this AI experiment might have thought they’d done all the necessary planning and preparation to ensure the success of the project, but they were quickly proven wrong. The fact is, in the business world thorough preparation is always essential. Whether you’re gearing up to launch a new company, you’re about to release a product or you’re rolling out a marketing campaign, paying attention to every last detail will help you to avoid costly and potentially humiliating mistakes. This means factoring in enough time to do all the relevant preparations properly, ensuring that this process isn’t rushed and corners are not cut.
Expect the best, prepare for the worst
Decades of business experience around the world dealing with a variety of different companies and projects have taught me to expect the unexpected – and to be ready to react quickly and effectively if and when problems arise. The engineers at Microsoft seem to have been taken by surprise by the response of Twitter users to their chatbot, and it’s all too easy to be blindsided by unforeseen complications in business. The key is to be adaptable and resilient enough to recover from these difficulties.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Try again – and again! In a statement made after Tay was removed from the internet, Peter Lee, Microsoft’s vice president of research, said: “We will remain steadfast in our efforts to learn from this and other experiences as we work toward contributing to an internet that represents the best, not the worst, of humanity.”
This comment perfectly encapsulates the never-give-up approach that entrepreneurs need if they are to fulfil their ambitions. Even the best businesspeople experience problems. One of the things that set these individuals apart is the fact that they have the courage and conviction required to keep going and to reach their goals, regardless of what happens along the way.
As Cobra Group of Companies founder and chairman, Chris Niarchos knows exactly what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. He started his first business in Sydney in 1988 and has since gone on to build one of the largest and most high-profile direct sales and marketing companies in the world.