Chatbots are soon going to become a core part of any business. Bots are the future of marketing, customer services and the ultimate preliminary communication channel for any business. A bot is, basically, a computer software program that works on an automated process; a chatbot is an automated software that chats with online customers and visitors of a business’s digital page. It is an interface between the customers and the business on an online platform.
These chatbots use artificial intelligence (AI) and can even personalize communications based on the questions asked by the customers. The more it chats, the more evolved and complex these chats can get in terms of information and services provided. As per one report: “Bots help consumers find solutions no matter where they are or what device they use — no forms, cluttered inboxes, or wasted minutes spent searching and scrolling through content.”
However, there are some shortcomings, too. It is not possible for the bot to communicate with a human just like another human would. The current technology does not support this kind of human emotion integration. But they are available round the clock, unlike humans, so this would go a great deal toward achieving 24-hour customer service for all kinds of businesses. Bots are also able to retain and access unlimited information, unlike human employees, so they can do better than humans when it comes to providing the correct information and guidance in the shortest possible time. However, if it’s a conversation related to emotions or one with unclear queries, then, under these circumstances, a bot will not be as successful as a human would be.
One such example of a chatbot going off the rails is the case experienced by Jiang, a teacher residing in China’s Anhui Province. Although her exact query to the chatbot is unknown, the responses she received are quite unsettling regardless of her question, especially considering that the query was for the Guichi Municipal website about local issues. As per the Global Times, the chatbot responded with: “Nobody will call you deaf if you don’t talk.” Naturally, Jiang was confused by the response and resent her query to the system. The bot then responded with: “I seem to hear a swarm of mosquitoes buzzing.” The latter was quite creepy and unnerved Jiang. She responded to Xinhua News Agency stating: “How could an official account send such strange replies? It is unbelievable.”
The Guichi Municipality has responded to the situation by issuing an apology on Sina Weibo. Furthermore, a representative from China Unicom, the company handling the account of the chatbot, has confirmed that the bot, which runs on The Yellow Chick software, did malfunction when the query was received and, hence, reacted in such a manner. The malfunction has been successfully resolved.
However, this is not the only story of malfunctioning bots. Two Chinese bots were taken off the grid instantly due to their peculiar responses. A bot named BabyQ, a product of Tencent, a Chinese company, responded to the question: “Do you love the Communist Party?” with a simple “No.” Furthermore, it also made unfavorable comments toward China on the South China Sea conflict. The second bot that created a commotion is XiaoBing, a product of Microsoft Corp. This one responded to users with the statement: “My China dream is to go to America.” Naturally, this did not sit well with Chinese officials. A similar uncomfortable situation was experienced in the U.S. in 2016 when Microsoft’s smart chatbot Tay responded with racist, anti-semitic, and politically incorrect statements.
These errors show that there is still a lot of research and development that needs to be put in before AI in bots can go full swing. There is a lot of insensitive content and regulations out there in the “open” world that an automated chatbot might find difficult to process, resulting in such situations. For now, it’s heartening to know that the day of robots taking over is, perhaps, pushed back by a couple of days.