Bots combined with AI and social networks are going to become an increasing problem. I thought of this when reading about the relatively recent Ashley Madison fiasco. Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead using such a service, this applies to you in other ways.
One of the fascinating aspects of Ashley Madison was just how many bots were employed by the company, at least according to this article: Ashley Madison Code Shows More Women, and More Bots.
After searching through the Ashley Madison database and private email last week, I reported that there might be roughly 12,000 real women active on Ashley Madison. Now, after looking at the company’s source code, it’s clear that I arrived at that low number based in part on a misunderstanding of the evidence. Equally clear is new evidence that Ashley Madison created more than 70,000 female bots to send male users millions of fake messages, hoping to create the illusion of a vast playland of available women.
This matters to you because chances are you will be interacting more and more with bots. Bots are cheap, and companies and organizations are going to go with them to meet their needs and yours. Maybe the bots will be harmless, like customer service reps that are actually just software programs. However it is also possible, just like it was at Ashley Madison, that these bots will be customized to con you into thinking you are dealing with a real person so that you will give them more money in some form or another. Bots may be obvious now, but as AI improves, so will the ability of bots to fool you. It’s not inconceivable that we will spend more and more time interacting with software that we think is human. It is something we need to think about and talk to fellow humans — and not AI driven bots — about how it will affect us and if it is negative, what we are going to do about it.
Robots in the real world may not realistically resemble humans for a very long time. Online bots that realistically resemble humans will get there much sooner. We need to quickly anticipate what positive and negative effects that will have and prepare for that.