Bots are here…. but don’t be afraid

4 min read Guest Blogger

CEO of Kona, Diego Cibils, explains the future of bots and the potential they have before his presentation at UX New Zealand 2016.

Since forever, human kind has been obsessed and afraid of technology. We love our cars, trains, and planes that allow us to travel well beyond our human capabilities. However, we distrust the machine that may replace us in any way — in our jobs, society, and our personal lives.

As bots become the new apps, we are learning what to do with them and how to take everything we know from graphic interfaces and apply it to conversational interfaces. But some people are already freaking out. Even if you’re a sci-fi junkie like me, and you’re working towards your own personal Jarvis, you have to admit what is happening around us is pretty amazing.

Here is why I think we shouldn’t be afraid.

The promise to keep expanding beyond the limits of our bodies and minds

We need a telescope to look beyond what our eyes can see. We need a computer to ease up calculations that would take us too much time to complete. Technology is there to expand our capabilities, both physical and cognitive.

With bots and artificial intelligence (AI), the truth is that we don’t know how it is going to expand our capabilities. Is it going to help us learn faster? Is it going to assume entry level positions so we can have more resources for more complex tasks? Is it going to help personalize services which right now are generic and ineffective?

Right now most bots are butlers and maids, ordering pizzas, and managing our schedule, team productivity, and tracking our exercise. But as we become more comfortable with sharing more complex parts of our life these experiences will become much more interesting.

They could help us to get to a cure faster, they could design more efficient ways to distribute resources, or they could help us feel less alone in the universe. The truth is, we don’t know yet, but the possibilities are endless.

We should be afraid of ourselves, not our creations

Why is it that when the Japanese think of robots they think of them as kind, big-eyed companions, and we think of them as super-soldier war machines?

Yes, there’s a crucial cultural factor in the development of bots and robots, and the role we allow them to have. Even though they are there to help us expand our capabilities, the choice of which capability to expand is ours and ours only.

I’m pretty sure that when the Internet was created, none of its inventors thought that one of its most popular things to come out of it would be cat videos and gifs. The same is true with every technology. It’s our decision what to do with it and how to manage it; so we shouldn’t be afraid of it — we should be afraid of us and our unresolved issues.

It’s going to force old-new conversations

As we now have the technology, we have to talk about it. We always had issues with the distribution of resources and power. Now that we have a bot that can do it better and faster, what are we going to do? How are we going to educate our children in this new reality of enhanced capabilities and its responsibilities? How are we going to train a new generation of workers so they could aspire to more than an entry-level position? What are we going to do with all this new free time?

It’s taking us back to basics

Not so long ago, everything was about image. The maxim was that no one wants to read so everything should be communicated by an image or a symbol. Language, for a lot of people, turned into emoji. But now, as we are teaching bots to talk, the complexities and richness of languages is being rediscovered.

I work with team of programmers, psychologists, and media experts, trying to design together the personalities and communication style of our chatbots. Effective communication is important once again as we re-imagine what a pleasant conversation with a bot looks like. It’s funny how the interaction with a machine made us re-think our most essential attribute: conversation.

A new step in our evolution is coming, and it’s going to be facilitated by AI and what we decide to do with it. Just like when we discovered fire or invented the wheel, it’s time to think about how this new technology is going to help us solve our biggest and most defiant issues.

So don’t be afraid, be amazed we made it this far, and be astounded by what is coming next.

Want to hear more? Come to UX New Zealand!

If you’d like to hear more about what Diego has to say on bots, plus a bunch of other cool UX-related talks, head along to UX New Zealand 2016 hosted by Optimal Workshop. The conference runs from 12-14 October, 2016, including a day of fantastic workshops, and you can get your tickets here. Got a question you’d like to ask Diego before the conference? You can Tweet him here: @aspekt