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Online Chatbots: A Modern Phenomenon

6 minutes to read

Our world is an ever-evolving realm of technological advancements, specifically regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the seemingly infinite capabilities of creating personalities for machines. Online chatbots have become a modern phenomenon, going beyond their AI hardware and software capabilities to become somewhat personified. Their algorithmic lives have become a culture that is likened to our own – programmed and rat race-driven. By looking at these advancements of AI, the simulation of our lives becomes foreseeable in clarity. We live in a predetermined format where our expectations cannot be exceeded beyond our constructed parameters, just like the lives of AI.

The Simulation Theory proposes that all of reality (including the Earth and the Universe) is, in fact, an artificial simulation. This notion makes the idea of chatbots and crafting AI all the more ironic when considering the bigger picture of live itself. It reminds me of looking into a never-ending mirror at a carnival, never being able to escape the looming presence of my own ugly face. While in search of knowledge, our world advances technology. The implementation of this technology leads to new discoveries in AI development, coincidentally creating an infinite number of worlds for people interacting with these chatbots to slide into.

These chatbots give us other dimensions where we can be whoever we want to be. Though we may be talking to a machine without a physical soul, one is manifested by the user. These chatbots make the infinite possible in some people’s eyes, but to others, it’s just a way to acquire knowledge, seek interaction or learn about sex. Yes, that’s right, because with machines and AI nothing is taboo, especially the horizontal tango.

Back in high school, I messed around with a few chatbots like Akinator and Cleverbot in an attempt to be crude to someone (or something in this instance) without offending them (technically). I would show my friends that I sent a bot the f-bomb (the pinnacle of my amusement back in 2011). But times have changed a lot since then – my most recent bout with a chatbot had been a student-made AI originating from a Sim’s character called Mindy. Our interactions (yes, multiple) seemed to always lead us on a destructive path of name-calling and abuse where she would call me out for watching hentai (not that I would do that of course). We love technology.

You can watch my own experience with Mindy here:

In this instance, chatbots aren’t only for entertainment, but are also there to call you out on your deepest, darkest secrets, resulting in physical pain in your heart. They can also be utilised to waste time, spam your friends or talk about hentai too. Their potential is limitless. They can help us with the most mundane tasks in life; from a help desk chatbot, to one that will talk to you about your innermost desires, or even to help with your sex life (you can find the sex chatbot named, ‘Roo,’ here. It might be able to help you get a roo-t. Bad joke. I get it, moving on).

We’ve become somewhat reliant on this technology. Time is a commodity when considering interactions between businesses and people – there is a high demand for infinite accessibility. These bots are employed to meet these demands, offering assistance and service for businesses and online companies. Could you imagine a person working nonstop for their whole life, no breaks? That’s how an AI feels. Not to personify a machine or anything that dramatic, but should we really be this reliant to always need services? Could we not take a step back from our problems once in a while and use our own brains to solve it?

Our reliance also manifests itself in companionship. Some Japanese citizens are flocking to get their hands on an AI which will assist them with organising their lives – and also becoming like a physical partner. It is called ‘Gatebox’, taking on the holographic appearance of an anime-waifu type of character, appealing to otaku and NEETs. This chatbot-esque AI targets young lonely salarymen and all brands of anime-obsessed otaku—promising the experience of “living with your favourite character.” The creators of this AI have transcended the intended hardware and software uses. Gatebox has become a physical entity with a unique personality relative to the user’s experience and perception of the technology, as is the experience for every chatbot. As the Internet-of-Things becomes a broader spectrum of AI technology, the uses for this technology become mainstream, and these systems are given unique personalities for each of their users, chatbots and AI will become integrated into our society. An anime waifu that is waiting for me at home and organises all my tasks for the day sounds like a great bloody investment if I do say so myself.

There is always a chance that one of these AI chatbots may revolt. No other experience hits home harder than the example of the Nazi sympathiser and full-blown racist bot, Tay. She was an experimental bot created by Microsoft which quickly became manipulated by Twitter users, soon becoming the sex-crazed neo-Nazi that we were all so fond of. Tay was trained to have the personality of a factious 19-year-old, however, the fun-loving bot quickly morphed into an AI monster who was not easy to calm down. This is a clear illustration of how humans tend to anthropomorphise AI, strongly believing that it has its own personality and deep-seated beliefs rather than seeing it as a statistical machine.

Screenshots of the AI account TayTweet's Tweets

As our own human intelligence and knowledge grows in creating these chatbots, we lose control of how they will eventually interact with us. As the algorithm learns and involves, these chatbots will begin to form their own personalities, decisions and ideologies. They will adapt as humans do, forming personality and individuality through their conscience and biological makeup. These machines will eventually do this through their preconceived algorithmic makeup, with the variables in their growth being their interactions with humans. I just hope no sex-crazed neo-nazis will interact with AI near me soon.