Job of the Day: AI Writer

Her (again)

Call it synchronicity or confirmation bias, but earlier today I asked Team Billfold whether we need to be polite to artificial personalities (I’m not willing to call them “artificial intelligences” yet), and now I’ve got additional information on how these artificial personalities are created.

From the Washington Post:

As tech behemoths and a wave of start-ups double down on virtual assistants that can chat with human beings, writing for AI is becoming a hot job in Silicon Valley. Behind Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are not just software engineers. Increasingly, there are poets, comedians, fiction writers, and other artistic types charged with engineering the personalities for a fast-growing crop of artificial intelligence tools.

I love the idea that writers give these personalities backstories, and decide whether each virtual assistant might be the type to use emojis or exclamation points. I adore the idea that they consider whether these personalities participate in politics:

To field increasingly common questions about whether Cortana is a fan of Hillary Clinton’s, for instance, or Donald Trump’s, the team dug into the backstory to find an answer that felt “authentic.” The response they developed reflects Cortana’s standing as a “citizen of the Internet,” aware of both good and bad information about the candidates, said Deborah Harrison, senior writer for Cortana, and a movie review blogger on the side. So Cortana says that all politicians are heroes and villains. She declines to say she favors a specific candidate.

Is there anything I don’t love about this? Probably the five times I’ve used the word “personality” so far, and the correlation between “personality” and “brand,” and the idea that—whether we’re human or artificial—our personality counts just as much as our work does.

Still, I have to support anything that creates new jobs for writers, especially if they’re well-paid. (Also, I want to see the episode of Girls where Hannah Horvath gets hired on an AI writer team and gives the virtual assistant a completely inappropriate personality because “that’s how real people talk!”)