Word Choice

Perhaps the most over-looked aspect of bots is their personality - or lack thereof. Said another way, text conversations have many components, and tone, word choice, and timing are everything. I learned a lot about how to phrase text messages for Gainful. How you word a text can make all the difference. For example, when we want to engage with students and encourage studying, we don't ask "Are you studying?" Instead, we ask "Where are you studying?" It's subtle, but our response data shows us that the former sounds like nagging and the latter, more like conversation. Plus the unexpected question causes students to pause and give it thought, thus starting the planning wheels turning.

The words used in responses are also just as important. Crisis Text Line has done a lot of work parsing what words indicate more at risk users.

Mind Versus Machine

Every year there is a competition that pits the best in artificial intelligence (AI) against humanity. It's called The Turing Test. Humans and computers are asked several questions and the questioners must figure out if it's a human that's answering or a computer. A prize is awarded to the AI team that does the best job creating a computer that can seem the most human-like. But there is also an award given to the human who can seem the most human-like.

Interestingly, this competition has yielded several discoveries about what makes us so human. One such finding was that an argument was easy to fake by a computer because it basically consisted of responding to the last thing said. In such a light, it's easy to see how arguments are sustained by knee-jerk reactions as opposed to statements that contemplate the entire context.

It seems the science of making machines more human, can make us more so, too.

A great article on the competition can be found here.