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AI and Chatbots are in the news as people want to use them for everything – well at least until reality sets in. Now I don’t oppose Chatbots/AI or automated help with a humanized interface. I think there’s potential for it that will make our lives better. They really are spicy autocomplete and there’s a role for that, even if we all remember how we hated Clippy.
The problem is that there’s too many cases people want to use so-called AI just replace humans. I think it will go wrong in many ways because we want people to connect to, even if only to hate them.
If you’ve ever screamed “operator” into a phone after navigating some impossible number-punch menu you have a good idea of how Chatbots could be received.
When we need help or assistance, we want to talk to a person. Maybe it’s for empathy. Maybe it’s to have someone to scream at. Either way we want a moral agent to talk to someone we know has an inner life, and principles, even if we disagree with them.
There’s something antisocial about chatbots just replacing humans. It breaks society and it breaks our need for contact (or blame).
Have you ever observed some horrible computer or mechanical failure? Have you imagined or participated in the lawsuits? Imagine how that will go with Chatbots.
Technology gives us the ability to do things on a huge level – but also create horrible disasters. Imagine what Chatbots can automate – financial aid, scientific research, emergency advice. Now imagine that going wrong on a massive, tech-enabled scale. Technology let us turn simple things into horrible crises.
If you have people along the way in the process? They can provide checks. They can make the ethical or practical call. But when it’s all bots doing bot things with bots and talking to a person? There’s that chance of ending up in the news for weeks, in government hearings for months, and lawsuits for years.
(Hell, removing Chatbots removes some poor schmuck to take the blame, and a few people with more money and sense might find they really want that.)
Have you ever read a book or commissioned art and enjoyed working with the artist? Chatbots and AI can make art without that connection. Big deal.
Recently I read a person grouse about the cost of hiring an artist to do something – when they could just go to a program. The thing is for many of us, an artistic connection over literature or art or whatever is also about connecting with a person.
When we know a person is behind something we know there’s something there. We enjoy finding the meaning in the book, the little references, the empathic bond we form with them. An artist listens to us, understands us, brings humanity to the work we request. It makes things real.
I read a Terry Pratchett book because it’s Terry Pratchett. I watch the Drawfee crew as it’s Jacob, Nathian, Julia, and Karina who I like.
Chatbot-generated content may be interesting or inspiring, but it’s just math that we drape our feelings around. AI generated content is just a very effective Rorschach blot. There’s no one to admire, learn from, or connect with behind it.
Humanity brings understanding, security, checks, and meaning.
So however the Chatbot/AI non-Revolution goes? I think it will be both overdone and underwhelming. It will include big lawsuits and sad headshakes. But ultimately if there’s an attempt to Chatbot/AI everything, it’ll be boring and inhuman.
Well, boring and inhuman if we know there’s chatbots there. It’s the hidden ones that worry me, but that’s for another post . . .