Automated Bots: Boon or Bane?

On a typical day in my life, Alexa allows me to turn on the lights in the room with my voice. I am constantly asking questions and receiving information from the bot.

Do I feel weird talking to a bot?

Maybe yes and maybe no.

You see, I am a 90’s kid, and I’ve seen the growth of that huge computer from occupying an entire table to fitting my palm. I’ve danced to that dubstep sound with screeches and beeps for at least 1 minute every time I tried to connect to the world wide web. Today Siri tells me the weather so I can dress appropriately and books my cab to work. We have come a long, long way. It’s difficult to express the joy of technology making life easier. At the same time, it’s hard to accept that bots are now a part of every minute of our lives and how dependent we are on them.

I consider the film ‘The Imitation Game’ a cult classic, simply because it made people aware of The Turing Test, which was developed by Alan Turing in 1950. It is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Now we’re surrounded by these intelligent machines which are blurring the line between human and machine voices. Not a single online conversation is complete without me wondering if I’m talking to a bot or a human. I’m sure you face the dilemma too!

The ability of bots to mimic human online behavior and language has developed sharply in the past three years. While reading the above line, you must have thought to yourself; surely bots can be distinguished because of their mechanical behavior. But I’m sorry to destroy that illusion because bots are getting smarter and more humane with every piece of information they receive. So much so, that we have reached a stage where we’re now developing bots to distinguish between bots and real humans.

Recently Facebook-owned Instagram made an announcement to purge inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that used third-party apps and automated bots to boost their popularity. They have blamed such automated bots for causing chaos by pushing polarizing content into the community. Facebook has already removed 754 million fake accounts in the last three months. The Instagram community has welcomed these enforcement policies as a measure to curb the spread of propaganda, misinformation and political influence amongst its users. Twitter too has taken down almost 6 million bot accounts from the website.

However, chatbots are proving to be very beneficial for multiple brands in banking, e-commerce, insurance and travel sectors. They deploy chatbots and AI assistants in core communicative functions.  Despite the disadvantages, chatbots are a thing of the future. It is still at a nascent stage and is yet to discover its real potential, but with its rising popularity among multiple businesses, it is definitely here to stay.

The impressive advancement in machine learning and artificial intelligence is helping to enhance this technology further. It would result in an increase in the usage by businesses, to ensure that they remain customer obsessed. One of Gartner’s report suggests that by 2020, almost 25 percent of customer service and support operations will be integrated virtual customer assistants or chatbots across engagement channels.