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Artificial intelligence creates trouble in China

The iPhone’s word-predicting software has stirred up trouble in China, causing many users to lash out against the U.S. technology.

A recent chain of events that led to many users abandoning their iPhones (and encouraging other Chinese users to do the same) was supposedly triggered when the South China Sea judgement was made public almost two weeks ago. The tribunal concluded that China had no historic claim to the waters and that it had violated the Philippines’ economic and sovereign rights. As a result, many phone users sent messages mentioning the possibility of ships being sunk.

In order to write messages in Chinese, the iPhone requires users to type “pinyin” words, which are words that create the sounds of Chinese words with Roman characters. Users can then select from a range of Chinese characters that represent what they are trying to write.

Apparently, when users were typing the pinyin letters for the word “sink” recently, the word-predicting software was suggesting the characters for “China”. Many users were infuriated by this, believing the association of the two words was deliberate on the part of U.S. software creators.

However, it was actually caused by a large number of people searching for a story about the sinking of a Chinese fishing boat earlier this year; thus being caused by the artificial intelligence software rather than U.S software creators themselves.

Following this, a number of events occurred; a company banned its employees from buying the upcoming iPhone 7 (as well as asking them to trade in their existing iPhones for Chinese-made models), there were mass iPhone smashings posted to social media, and there were calls to boycott U.S. fast food chain KFC.

Terms such as “South China Sea” and “KFC” have been since been censored on the internet by the Chinese government in order to prevent further protests.

China surpassed the U.S. as the iPhone’s largest market in 2015.

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