These days, checking the headlines over morning coffee is as much about figuring out if we should be hunkering down in the basement preparing for imminent nuclear annihilation as it is about keeping up with the day’s headlines. Unfortunately, even the most diligent newshounds may find it difficult to distinguish the signal from the noise, which is why NBC launched its NBC Politics Bot on Facebook Messenger shortly before the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
In 1950, Alan Turing's famous article "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" was published, which proposed what is now called the Turing test as a criterion of intelligence. This criterion depends on the ability of a computer program to impersonate a human in a real-time written conversation with a human judge, sufficiently well that the judge is unable to distinguish reliably—on the basis of the conversational content alone—between the program and a real human. The notoriety of Turing's proposed test stimulated great interest in Joseph Weizenbaum's program ELIZA, published in 1966, which seemed to be able to fool users into believing that they were conversing with a real human. However Weizenbaum himself did not claim that ELIZA was genuinely intelligent, and the introduction to his paper presented it more as a debunking exercise:
“We believe that you don’t need to know how to program to build a bot, that’s what inspired us at Chatfuel a year ago when we started bot builder. We noticed bots becoming hyper-local, i.e. a bot for a soccer team to keep in touch with fans or a small art community bot. Bots are efficient and when you let anyone create them easily magic happens.” — Dmitrii Dumik, Founder of Chatfuel
ELIZA's key method of operation (copied by chatbot designers ever since) involves the recognition of clue words or phrases in the input, and the output of corresponding pre-prepared or pre-programmed responses that can move the conversation forward in an apparently meaningful way (e.g. by responding to any input that contains the word 'MOTHER' with 'TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR FAMILY'). Thus an illusion of understanding is generated, even though the processing involved has been merely superficial. ELIZA showed that such an illusion is surprisingly easy to generate, because human judges are so ready to give the benefit of the doubt when conversational responses are capable of being interpreted as "intelligent".
Companies use internet bots to increase online engagement and streamline communication. Companies often use bots to cut down on cost, instead of employing people to communicate with consumers, companies have developed new ways to be efficient. These chatbots are used to answer customers' questions. For example, Domino's has developed a chatbot that can take orders via Facebook Messenger. Chatbots allow companies to allocate their employees' time to more important things.
In one particularly striking example of how this rather limited bot has made a major impact, U-Report sent a poll to users in Liberia about whether teachers were coercing students into sex in exchange for better grades. Approximately 86% of the 13,000 Liberian children U-Report polled responded that their teachers were engaged in this despicable practice, which resulted in a collaborative project between UNICEF and Liberia’s Minister of Education to put an end to it.
Companies and customers can benefit from internet bots. Internet bots are allowing customers to communicate with companies without having to communicate with a person. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has produced a chatbot that allows customers to receive boarding passes, check in reminders, and other information that is needed for a flight. Companies have made chatbots that can benefit customers. Customer engagement has grown since these chatbots have been developed.
The Evie chatbot has had a huge impact on social media over the last few years. She is probably the most popular artificial personality on YouTube. She has appeared in several videos by PewdiePie, the most subscribed YouTuber in the world. This includes a flirting video with over 12 million views! Evie has been filmed speaking many different languages. She chats with Squeezie in French, El Rubius and El Rincón De Giorgio in Spanish, GermanLetsPlay and ConCrafter in German, NDNG - Enes Batur in Turkish, Stuu Games in Polish and jacksepticeye, ComedyShortsGamer and KSIOlajidebtHD in English. And that is a very small selection. Evie shares her database with Cleverbot, which is an internet star in its own right. Cleverbot conversations have long been shared on Twitter, Facebook, websites, forums and bulletin boards. We are currently working to give Evie some more artificial companions, such as the male avatar Boibot.
“There is hope that consumers will be keen on experimenting with bots to make things happen for them. It used to be like that in the mobile app world 4+ years ago. When somebody told you back then… ‘I have built an app for X’… You most likely would give it a try. Now, nobody does this. It is probably too late to build an app company as an indie developer. But with bots… consumers’ attention spans are hopefully going to be wide open/receptive again!” — Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director at General Catalyst