Rise of the Chat 'Bots

In February 2016, I wrote about the Coming of the 'Bots. Now it is September, and indeed there are more on the horizon, as well as a few I missed from 2015. However, bot utility is fairly constrained now and likely into the future, mainly because the mental model is one around artificial intelligence which as we know is simply incorrect (and not really desirable, it turns out).

Bot Platforms

A February 2016 article in Forbes has a nice backgrounder on the bots (how they started with Telegram, etc.). There are now bots for a variety of platforms, including: iOS, and Android apps, and the chat platforms: Kik, Line, Messenger, Skype, Slack, Telegram, WeChat, WhatsApp, and Viber.

Telegram, Trello, Github, and WordPress Integration

Telegram has had bots for a while, and a new version of bot technology allowed for interesting integration between Telegram, Trello, Github, and WordPress, among others. The WordPress part is no currently of interest to me, but having Github and Trello events announced into chatrooms is helpful for activity notification.

Whatsapp, Messenger bots

Now Whatsapp (which had these a little earlier) and Facebook Messenger are talking Chat Bots. Indeed, they are a similar to Telegram bots which are frankly limited and really nothing more than not-really-very-intelligent search and announce tools. The Chat thing doesn't work so well as an interface to information, it turns out.

Yeah, sure, Facebook bots can do payments, so what? That is not really a great demand, unless you are Facebook and you don't do payments. Ok, so now Facebook is saying the bots were overhyped, but getting better... yawn.

WeChat, Line Bots

The pseudo-bot functions in WeChat and Line official accounts are really nothing more than auto-reply. The idea is that people who contact the account will get a fairly instantaneous response. That is fine when basic information is needed, but then again, that is what websites are for. Apparently the mobile web and corporate websites are that ridiculously bad that a bot is needed to help support this kind of basic information request.

Facebook - No signs of Intelligence

The real bastardization of language is when there is the claim that Facebook has developed a lot of AI tech to support the bots. Computer vision is not artificial intelligence, per say, in any but the most narrow sense of the term. Why call it intelligence instead of recognition? Intelligence is more than pattern recognition (though it does include that).

Very small organisms can recognize features of their environment. While that is adaptive, we don't really call that intelligent in the same sense. While it is true there is machine learning at work, intelligence is another matter. Perhaps this is a semantic issue, but when terms like artificial intelligence and chat bot are used together, an expectation of actual intelligent chat is created. These bots are nothing of the sort, and natural language processing is equally retarded.

Facebook puts Good Afternoon, Jeff! in my Facebook feed, along with a partially cloudy sun icon. This is not intelligence. For one thing, it is ridiculous to use an exclamation mark. For another, I have banned the use of my location by Facebook, so the weather report is either proof of spying, or simply a blind guess. Facebook, the so-called intelligent part, remains a very small organism, and not an intelligent one. Yes, yes, I know, it will be coming soon as soon as we through more big data and Moore's Law at it. We've heard that for 70 years.

Lists of Bot Lists

Reprise, the Botini, a useful Bot

The botini, a learning bot to support human learning is still a viable feature set even in this somewhat limited bot environment. The main focus is not generic chat, generic personal assistance, or generic auto-response. Rather it is an aide to assist in a specific task, that is learning (classroom, online, hybrid).