A controversial new AI chatbot named “Historical Figures” lets people “talk” to historical figures from beyond the grave. Developed by 25-year-old Amazon software engineer Sidhant Chaddha, the iPhone app gives access to 20,000 historical figures, who can interact with users as if they were still alive.
“I was able to chat with some historical figures and I was like, why don’t I make this an app so that other people can have this experience as well?” Chaddha told Motherboard. The software engineer’s inspiration came from playing around with the latest open AI large language model, GPT-3, where he realized the program had a knack for language and providing historical facts.
There are currently 20,000 historical figures represented in the app, whose notability were chosen by ranking their popularity when they were alive, according to Chaddha. To speak with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler costs 500 coins (or approximately $15.99), while users can talk to Hitler’s henchman Joseph Goebbels for free.
“I think from an educational standpoint this would be really useful, particularly for young students,” Chaddha said. “I’m thinking like elementary and middle school students.”
However, Twitter users have been confused by some of the bizarre responses that AI versions of historical figures have produced. Examples include Goebbels claiming to feel guilty about the “persecution of the Jews” and notable antisemite Henry Ford denying that he ever hated Jewish people, saying: “I have always believed in equality for everyone regardless of their religious backgrounds and beliefs.”
Each chat begins with a disclaimer, which reads: “I may not be historically accurate, please verify factual information.” Chaddha went on to justify his app’s inaccuracies.
“We don’t want to spread things that are hateful and harmful for society,” said Chaddha. “So it detects if it’s saying things that are racist or hateful, these sorts of things—I don’t want to show that to a user. That could be harmful to students, especially if they’re saying things that are harmful and hateful to the person they’re talking to.”