When Products Talk

The New Yorker

Last month, the Washington Post reported on a surprising new job in Silicon Valley: bot-writer. "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," the Post's Elizabeth Dwoskin wrote. These personalities, Dwoskin reported, will soon be joined by more specialized bots developed by other companies, among them Sophie and Molly, "nurse avatars" that talk to patients about their medical conditions. There's even a "guru avatar" in development, designed to teach meditation. These products are exciting and futuristic--just a decade ago, the possibility of conversing with a computer program seemed like science fiction.