Real People Talking about Chatbots

One of the most significant trends in Artificial Intelligence that not enough people are debating is the use of Chatbots. Chatbots, as you almost surely know, are computer programs designed to simulate conversation with human users, mostly over the Internet or other digital platforms.

Chatbots first caught the eye of the mainstream during the Ashley Madison hack/bust, when it was revealed that a lot of the, uh, chatty women were actually chatty fembots, making flirty small-talk with lonely married men to string them along into thinking they were desirable and continuing to shell out membership to the tune of $60 and up monthly. These female chatbots were convincing enough that nobody caught on for quite a while, until one poor schmo noticed several different women started chatting the same things back to him after a while.

The revelation was rather offputting, and not only for Ashley Madison’s bottom line. But in a depressing yet amusing article today in The Financial Times, it sounds like chatbots are only going to proliferate, spurring the latest Orwellian expression, “Conversation is the new interface.”

As the FT points out, this “conversation” doesn’t actually mean we’re going to be returning to more face-to-face engagement, but more “talking” to robots, especially those IA programs that keep popping up on Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Slack, etc., ostensibly to help you with tasks but just as often cajoling you into expanding the use of their platform in one way, shape or form.

You can tell already there’s a disenchantment with chatbots, because now somebody’s trying to redefine them -- “Artificial Assistants,” as Venture Beat trotted out over the weekend. Honestly, it seems like an honorable attempt to elevate the tool, suggesting the “key measure of success for an intelligent assistant, whether in the enterprise or consumer space, is how much value the assistant adds [by] either performing a task a person would find hard to perform themselves or saving a person time by performing tasks that would take them a long time to do.”

That sounds great, right? And maybe it will be. But with all the pseudonymous accounts blossoming throughout social media, we suspect chatbots will too often be used by brands, corporations and governments to create false buzz, trends and consensus. Two years ago, Twitter acknowledged at least 23 million of its users were automated. Today, with the stakes so high in the battle for the presidency, the quest to get on Twitter’s hashtag trending column has escalated to new heights.

There seems to be too little exploration of chatbot abuse, but hopefully it’s coming. If we’ve got any 7CTOs members with thoughts, opinions or perspectives on this, we’d welcome the input. Thanks for reading.