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May 4, 2016

Chatbot, Your New God

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

Oh, yeah, here he goes: More ranting from Dan on how the world is going to end, thanks to the Internet. Technology is evil. Blah-blah-blah. Google wrecked my career. And on and on.

But seriously, this chatbot thing has side effects you should consider. The instant access to knowledge without the process of learning is a terrible thing.

As chatbot technology improves, not only will it replace human employees, but I predict that it will hinder your ability to think and learn.

For example, you probably remember when some doofus in math class who asked whether or not the class could use calculators on the test. Dumb question. Ideally, everyone in the class should know how to perform basic arithmetic. Yet, why bother going through those basics, when a gizmo can do it for you — and without mistakes?

Well the reason is simple: Because performing such exercises is good for your brain. Math gets you to think. That’s the whole point of education. You must be infused with the mental tools necessary to get by on a daily basis. As a human, it’s best that you have the ability to identify a problem and to solve that problem in a resourceful and useful manner. As a culture, we admire people who do so.

All of that resourcefulness becomes unnecessary when you have a chatbot.

Unless you’re just a nerd who loves math, you could sit in front of your computer or phone and pose all the questions to the chatbot. Instantly, you get the perfect answer. You don’t need to think, you don’t need to demonstrate any abilities. The answer is the solution and vice-versa. That’s marvelous, but isn’t even thinking at all.

The danger I fear comes from over-reliance on such technology. As an example, suppose you have that “Where did I park?” app on your phone. You go to the mall, park the car, then shop. When it’s time to leave, you check your phone to find your car — but the phone’s battery is dead! Now you’re hosed because you must wander the entire lot looking for a single car. The whole time, you’re thinking that you’re an idiot. After all, a few years ago, you always found your car. Maybe you didn’t walk right to it, but you were close.

That kind of reliance on technology for even basic needs is frightening to me. Would chatbot technology get to the point where people would blindly accept every answer given? What would you do if the chatbot instructs you to pour gasoline on a flame? Seriously, some people would.

Human beings have always desired a simple, effective solution. It’s part of our nature: We seek answers to questions. Yet, we are superstitious. We gamble. Chatbots could effectively exploit those weaknesses. That’s what I fear most about this emerging technology.

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