The Bot Politic

Silicon Valley’s usual solution to designing an inoffensive, eager-to-please technology has been to make it a woman. But why use gender at all?CreditILLUSTRATION BY MARINA MUUN In February, I took a job designing the personality of a chatbot called Kai. I ghostwrite the lines it says, and I have thought, while testing it, that talking to myself has rarely been so unpredictable. Kai, which was conceived by my employer, Kasisto, to help customers with online banking, works over text message, Slack, and especially Facebook Messenger, where more than thirty-four thousand other chatbots have joined it since April, when Facebook opened the platform to developers. Many of these bots possess no personality. The ones created by CNN and the Wall Street Journal, for instance, greet first-time users with “we,” as if the…

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