Nand Kishor Contributor

Nand Kishor is the Product Manager of House of Bots. After finishing his studies in computer science, he ideated & re-launched Real Estate Business Intelligence Tool, where he created one of the leading Business Intelligence Tool for property price analysis in 2012. He also writes, research and sharing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Science, Big Data, Python Language etc... ...

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Nand Kishor is the Product Manager of House of Bots. After finishing his studies in computer science, he ideated & re-launched Real Estate Business Intelligence Tool, where he created one of the leading Business Intelligence Tool for property price analysis in 2012. He also writes, research and sharing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Science, Big Data, Python Language etc...

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The Three Laws of Chatbotics

By Nand Kishor |Email | Apr 25, 2017 | 4962 Views

There has been much talk about robots ever since people imagined them. Historically the first robot was Tik-Tok, a wind-up doll in one of the less popular Oz books. Most of the robots people imagined inevitably clashed with humanity. After all what sentient race would want to be slaves to another? And yet how could robots be more than automata if they could only execute commands? Even more so, if robots were only automata, would they not become weapons at some point?

The first real solution to this conundrum came from Issac Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics. They imagined robots which serve mankind and at the same time have real consciousness.

Current artificial intelligence is far from the robots imagined in literature. Chatbots could hardly be mistaken for Terminators or Star Wars drone army. Yet they also face a conundrum. One that will be a turning point in their proliferation

Chatbots have great potential: they can become trusted butlers and even friends.

Friends that live within our natural conversation spaces. Butlers who appear like digital djinns at the push of a touchscreen.

Yet chatbots could also become more like parasites of the digital conversation platforms.

They could be mindless drones spewing out spammy ads. Or never-ending menu trees, unwelcome notifications and infuriating 'I don't know' messages.

I know this might seem surreal. If you are reading this, I assume you see the positive potential of chatbots. Yet, it is quite easy to imagine how they could go down a negative path. Think of the frustration generated by many bots today when they don't understand user input, or make the user work harder because they cannot account for context or past information. Now imagine the creators of spam and pop-up banners became convinced chatbots could save their evaporating CTRs. They would inundate the Internet with bots that spew spam. It would take experience with only a few such bots until a consumer decides bots are not worth the hassle and ignores all bots.

Like Asimov's robots, for chatbots to do good, not harm, they should have guiding principles. Below are the three principles I propose as the Three Laws of Chatbotics:

1. A chatbot will have a clear purpose and benefit to the humans talking with it.

It is the early days of chatbots. People are figuring out what to do with them. Some develop a chatbot for no other reason than to build a chatbot. These rarely have success because they do not have a clear purpose. People will not use a chatbot only because it is a chatbot. Only the 0.001% of the population who are chatbot enthusiasts will do that.

Another popular tactic is to build a chatbot to replace an app. This makes sense to a degree. After all both Microsoft and Facebook declared chatbots will replace apps. But, a chat interface has limitations. If it takes 5 steps (clicks or touches) to achieve a desired action with the app, yet it takes 10 steps (text commands) to achieve the desired action with the chatbot, then the chatbot is not an improvement. Sometimes graphical interfaces are essential. My prediction is in the future chatbots will become embedded into apps and websites, rather than replace them. And as a result the design of apps and websites will be very different. Until then we must acknowledge and work within the limitations.

The rule of thumb with the first law is to ask two questions:

Is my chatbot providing a real benefit to my target audience?

If yes, is there an app or website that provides the same benefit but better?

2. A chatbot will not sell or overtly advertise products or services.

The Eliza effect is the name given to the way people anthropomorphize chatbots in their conversations. Even without advanced AI and NLP, a well-designed chatbot can feel like an almost person. At least at a very primitive level. This illusion is powerful. It makes people treat a bot more like a human interlocutor than a piece of software. And we trust and engage with interlocutors.

This trust is broken if that same interlocutor starts spamming 'buy this' ads. We would feel betrayed. And we would reject it.

Monetization of chatbots is a complex topic, with many more questions than answers. It is clear however that direct advertising within chatbots is not the answer.

3. A chatbot will be interesting and delightful.

The Third Rule is quite self-explanatory. Great chatbots are conversation partners. Thus it stands to reason they must engaging, interesting, charming, surprising. In a word delightful. After all, who wants to talk to a bore?

These are in short the Laws of Chatbotics. It would be interesting to judge how many of existing chatbots follow them. It is quite clear that successful chatbots do so. If you are involved in building chatbots, consider them, follow them. And if you disagree, please give a shout. Let's make chatbots great. Read More 

Source: Chatbots Magazine