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New technologies have a way of forcing us to confront tough questions. When phones became mini hand-held computers, questions about their place in work and school environments arose. When livestream functionality was added to Facebook, criminals looking for shock factor and infamy began using it to broadcast horrendous acts of violence in real time. Since throwing out these technologies in favor of confronting these questions isn’t a practical solution, we have to face them head on. Here’s a look at three tough questions we’re now confronting with the rising popularity of chatbots.

The ethics of digital labor

The elephant in the room when it comes to chatbots is the effect chatbots might have on the customer service industry, more specifically, the human element of the customer service industry. It has already faced resistance as many customer service jobs were outsourced overseas where labor is cheaper. What happens when it’s outsourced for free to machines? For the time-being at least, chatbot technology isn’t advanced enough to completely replace the need for human customer service agents but some companies are already cutting back and as technology improves, what will become of human workers in the customer service industry?

Implications of machines that pass the Turing Test

Alan Turing, the famed computer scientist who broke the Nazi’s code and helped bring an end to WWII, proposed a simple test for determining true artificial intelligence: if a person can carry on a conversation with a machine, either verbally or through written text, and not tell if it is human or machine, it passes the test. The most advanced chatbots are already close to capable of passing this test. Once they can, will chatbots be required to divulge to humans that they are communicating with a bot?

The emulation of empathy and emotion

Many brands are already programming their chatbots to simulate empathy and emotion, not just resolve customer issues in a cold and calculating manner. Emotional artificial intelligence is a major obstacle for AI researchers. Psychologists still don’t agree on what emotion is in humans. AI researchers will be tackling the issue of programming a machine to feel, or at least act like they do so that speaking with them will feel more natural and consumers will be more inclined to seek out assistance from chatbots in the future.

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