Who let the bots out

Today I had occasion to contact roughly two dozen friends via the message or chat tool on Facebook.

When first contacted, two of them replied by asking if I was a bot – if I was software –  before accepting that it was really me.

I don’t think anyone I contacted 10 years ago via email or even instant messenger would have wondered if I was software impersonating a human being. That was before Markov text generators and chatterbots became commonplace.

Computerized communication is largely a wonderful innovation. It is convenient to conduct our conversations via the “on-demand” platforms of email and SMS, whereby we choose when to read, when to reply, etc.
Emojicons and animated GIFs have made sophisticated, nuanced visual communication possible for millions. There are many creative benefits to playing rhetorical games, en masse, with 140 characters or less.

But when we narrow communication to the computer realm, we open the door to having computers enter into those conversations. We let the bots in by choosing to conduct so much of our socializing via the most “efficient” route. That’s their – the computers’ – domain, not ours.