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When the bot is you

Mike Elgan | May 17, 2016
The bot revolution is about to get weird. Get ready for your own personal 'me bot'.

"Me bots" will also fill two roles with existing technology. Voice mail serves the purpose of enabling people to communicate with us when we're not available. It uses a recorded version of our voice to enable a psychological connection for the caller in real time, but a delayed engagement with the caller for us. Voicemail makes conversations "live" for the caller but asynchronous for us. "Me bots" will do this for us on messaging platforms.

Social networks enable people to maintain a much larger number of relationships than they otherwise could. If you maintained regular contact of some kind before Facebook with 50 people, you can do so now with hundreds. "Me bots" will do the same thing on chat-based platforms. (In fact, Chang created the Chat Bot Club because she couldn't keep up with all the group conversations going on). As messaging continues to grow and replace social networking, people will be overwhelmed and will happily share the load with a "me bot."

How your 'me bot' will work

Here's how I believe "me bots" will usually work. First, you'll probably have a "white list" of contacts who will not get the "me bot" treatment. Spouses, BFFs and bosses may be spared.

"Me bots" will use a variety of tricks to answer interactions. For example, it will recognize when conversations are trivial and will respond in kind. If someone chats, "Hey, Mike. What's up?" Your "me bot" might choose to respond with: "Not much. What's up with you?" (Let's face it: Mike doesn't really need to be involved in the conversation at this point.)

Like Google Now or other applications, your "me bot" will harvest data from various sources. If someone chats: "What are you up to?" it might check your calendar and respond to: "Not much. Just going out to dinner with my parents later."

Likewise, our "me bots" will detect non-trivial conversations. If someone texts you about a promotion or some life-changing event, it will alert you so you can take over the conversation.

Crucially, your "me bot" will provide you with a daily summary of who talked to "you," and also what "you" said. Of course, this all gets pretty dumb when two bots have these conversations with each other.

Regardless, different "me bot" services will work in different ways. But I think most of them will generally handle the trivial for you, then alert you to the substantive conversations where you can step in and really "be yourself."

The bottom line is that the core idea behind Irene Chang's Chat Bot Club is fascinating, profound, inevitable and coming to a messaging app much sooner than you think.


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