Why bots and AI need to be questioned

A few Saturdays ago, I did something I’ve never done before.

I attended a Codethecity event.

Why, you may ask? Why, indeed.

What possible reason would a creative have to toddle along to a mass pulling together of our country’s brainboxes?

Bots. Artificial Intelligence.

A good proportion of geekdom was coming together to create chatbots. Life was going to be breathed into inanimate objects, and I was going to play a part in this spectacle of Frankensteinian proportions. Awesome.

Intelligent beings would be created that could learn from human interaction.

Scary?

Nope. Interesting.

The good news is that this event wasn’t full of awkward, socially inept introverts staring at their shoes.

No, sir. A variety of very interesting people. Intelligent people that saw things I didn’t. And not because they saw things through glasses as thick as the bottom of lemonade bottles. They didn’t.

These are people that are on a different planet. In a different orbit. And effectively talk different languages. And if they don’t, they will find a way to do so, in about the same time you’ve reached the end of this sentence.

This event is a practical thing. It actually produces something at the end of it. These people are doers. No sitting around for weeks, months, years, analysing how best to figuratively make things fly. No chin stroking. Just thinking, then doing. Fast. With results like this.

Bots and AI is working its way into more of our daily lives than I’d care to mention. So I won’t. Just ask Mariano Bosaz, Coca-Cola’s global senior digital director. Or ask Alexa to do it for you.

I’ve been dealing with bots for a while. But not building them. That’s why this chatbot and AI edition of codethecity was a pleasant experience.

And one where, as I suspected, a copywriter is perfectly placed to add value.

We were looking at a bot as a communication device. A marketing device; one that relies on human interaction.

So here’s the key. Voice is hugely important – critical, in fact. If you want to form a durable relationship with your customers, that elusive heterogeneous brand voice needs to be there. Trouble is, how far do you go? The nuance of language is something that must not be ignored if you want a bot to be interacted with through to desired outcome.

And what did our little team at the event do? We set about creating a chatbot that wanted you to be in meetings less, at the same time making you more productive. We called him Nobot. He doesn’t like meetings. And is pretty sarcastic. We even thought about whether he would have mood swings. And that made it a lot of fun. We weren’t going to make our lives easy. No sir. Where’s the fun in that?

Look, before I start wittering on, meandering up a path of technological foible, I want to make some simple point in terms of marketing and communication for the future.

I don’t converse with Siri very well. She doesn’t understand me. Although, I suppose I’m in a noisy car a lot. And I’m Scottish. And my family can’t converse with Alexa. Because we don’t have Alexa.

Incidentally, pick up your iPhone and ask Siri who’s the boss. Go on.

Ok, so we, as marketeers, digital solutions architects, creatives, copywriters, PR practitioners and the like have some important thinking to do. The human mind works in peculiar ways. Have you had a conversation with a friend recently? You didn’t even think about how you referred to things, how you greeted people, agreed, questioned, reacted etc. But we must. We have to analyse everything from now on.

The communications we create in the AI space can be empathetic, human and personable, but not to the point where the bot becomes tiresome to interact with. Nobody likes a difficult human, never mind AI that’s a pain in the bot.

The trees of communication need to be well thought through, introducing nuance of language where necessary, but not forced. Creating something fake that doesn’t sound fake isn’t just difficult, it’s tantamount to an oxymoron. Which, ironically could be a great name for a bot…

The most important part of all this?

Humans.

I interacted with a great bunch of them over a small period of time. Immensely interesting humans that are hugely capable of solving a problem in all sorts of interesting ways.

Human interaction.

We heard a lot about Chatbots at the tail end of 2016. They’re the next big thing.

They’re not. They are the big thing.

Good news is we’re still in control. Yes, Siri.

The other megabit of good news is that we have a number of bots. They’re built. And they’re here. And they could have your name on them.

Ask us a question.

We’ll start by working out the answers. You know, like humans.

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