Chat Bots Aren’t a Fad. They’re a Revolution.
Chris Messina
1.2K53

Perhaps it’s my age, perhaps simply a personal philosophical taste, but conversations with computers, however good, have never and may never appeal to me as much as a quick UI that I can get in, get what I need, and get out, without playing “let’s pretend you are a real person” with a digital simulacrum.

As a kid, while I loved video arcade games, I never enjoyed “computer games” that attempted to be more like face-to-face games, but replacing the other people with a computer program. No matter how advanced today’s video games are, especially role-playing type games that hinge on the pretense of conversation, they hold no appeal for me. I *always* am hyper aware that they are *not* people, hence they can never anticipate everything I may throw at them, hence they are sorely limited.

Same goes with these bots. Yes, they are yet immature, but every interaction I have with them ends very quickly because they simply have no useful response to most of my actual needs. They are just more advanced “phone trees” that we always complain about because you never need options 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, but instead want to go straght to zero to get a damned human being on the phone, because in real life most of our needs *are* the exception, not the usual stuff we could have easily got online or whatever.

Life is the exceptions, not the rules. In short, I see where all this is going, and I understand why, and maybe it seems to provide a financial benefit for a time. But ultimately, I see this as more of a fad than a revolution. I see people unchanging, wanting to speak with people that have real empathy and exceptional solutions to exceptional needs, that can break rules when it just *seems* the right thing to do.

If there is any real revolution here — and again, I see this as more an evolution of the phone tree — it is simply that we are moving past the visual UI as the fixed presentation of answers back to a direct conversation. I don’t believe, as you don’t either, of course, that this is the end of UI as a visual, organized blurp of useful content, but rather an experiment driven by trends and technological possibility.

But life is about people, even when we speak with a business, not about artificial “Her”s that pretend. We all know the difference, and when it is done too well, and we realize it, we don’t feel let down, we feel tricked, and that is the very last thing a business will want in the long run.

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