How and why plain text is making a comeback—via chatbots

The text-messaging technology could be the basis for micro-journalism on a macro scale, with significant manifestations for PR pros, marketers and internal communicators, as well.

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Chatbots—or just bots—are the technology behind these text missives that may—and should—become part of any company’s communication toolkit. I have grown increasingly convinced that bots will become vitally important.

Bots aren’t new. Twitterbots have been around for almost as long as Twitter has. Now, bot developers are employing artificial intelligence so the bots can learn as they’re used.

One example, Microsoft’s Tay, learned racism, misogyny and antisemitism from users who decided it would be fun to prank it, leading Microsoft to shut it down until it can be programmed to ignore certain classes of interactions. If you’re worried that Cyberdyne will one day use AI to switch on Skynet, fear not. Bots are the short-term future of AI.

We’re already seeing bots employed in fascinating and useful ways. Amazon Echo is a perfect example. (I’ve had one since mid-2015.) You ask the Echo a question, and it answers in a pleasant female voice. The Echo doesn’t connect to your computer; just to your WiFi. The question is processed by the chatbot (in the cloud), returning the answer almost instantly.

Siri and its ilk

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