Facebook Messenger chatbots: I don't want to talk to robots

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This week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that bots, designed to answer inquiries, are to begin making their way to Facebook Messenger. Using these bots, we will soon be able to order pizza or flowers for mom. To me that sounds awful.

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Call me old and grumpy, but there are certain things in life that an artificial intelligence or a robot cannot do for me. If I buy gifts for my family and friends, I love to do the research. I like to read product descriptions and reviews, to compares stores to find the best prices and to weigh the different payment options. All this effort on my part, in the end, provides a sense of satisfaction that simply cannot be achieved through the blunt response of a bot. Also, I love investing my time this way because my family and friends are worth the effort to me.

How useful can these bots be?

When it comes to solving problems I do not think that bots can be relied on. Often, the problems being dealt with through service hotlines or Messenger bots are too complex to be solved with a simple question-and-answer game.

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Will you choose a pair of shoes based on a bot's advice? / © Facebook; ANDROIDPIT

In addition, when customers have a problem with the service provided by a company, they bring an emotional aspect with them. A bot might have difficulty dealing with people on this level. Perhaps, if a bot detects an emotionally upset customer, it can redirect them to a human customer service representative.

Facebook Messenger as a news source?

Last year, the Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation, both based in the US, published studies showing that 63 percent of Facebook and Twitter users are using these social networks as their primary source of news. This fact alone is already very disturbing for me because this kind of consumption of news is very superficial and struggles to deliver any meaningful depth.

During his keynote speech at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated how bots from news organizations can provide brief summaries of news stories. If you missed the keynote presentation, you can watch it a segment of it below.

These story summaries have a significant negative effect: they are harmful to the publications that have to pay their staff, the ones who put time and work into researching and writing these stories. These publications are dependent on their readers, because page views bring ad revenue. If Facebook were to remunerate these publications, bloggers and news sites for their effort, then it might be a different story.


Don't get me wrong: I believe that the development of artificial intelligence is not only very cool, but also extremely important to many different services and sectors. I only fear that companies will be tempted to move unpopular and cost-intensive services over into this new automated sector. Forget the cost-cutting, it’s the human touch in solving customer problems and meeting customer requirements that we will lose.

Do you think chat bots will have a negative effect? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Alex Apr 23, 2016 Link to comment

    If you can contact and chat with real People both known and unknown across the Globe ,Why do we need bots to make decisions?

  • WickedSweetDreamz Apr 19, 2016 Link to comment

    As it is, when you call a business or medical office you are expected to deal with an automated system that is not always able to help you with your problem. And I personally have had trouble with getting through to an actual person many times. And I believe that people have become way to dependant on social media sites and texting people rather than the more personal side of actually talking on the phone or seeing other people in real life. I have also noticed that a lot of people are suffering from some form of social anxiety and have more trouble interacting with people nowadays. Don't get me wrong. I think that technology is inherently a good thing and it has helped certain things in many ways. But I'm not going to be able to ever get used to a robot doing something like picking out a gift for someone who is important to me. I agree with the article that I would rather personally put the thought and effort into getting something for someone else. And I don't like the fact that these days social media and other forms of software "predict " what they think I am supposedly going to do ahead of time. I can change my mind at any given moment and I like a wide variety of things. A. I. can definitely have the potential to be helpful in many ways but shouldn't replace our very humanity, which is already being done all over the world by the seemingly endless supply of information and bombardment of ads. And I am old school and would rather actually talk on my phone than text all the damn time. Robots are useful in some ways. But we must make sure that we don't become the robots ourselves.

  • lianne john Apr 19, 2016 Link to comment

    Hmmmm, our opinions are going to differ on this one. While some may prefer a bot to order a flower for their loved one, another won't!

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