How to Think About Bots

We live in a world of bots. Generally speaking, these sets of algorithms are responsible for so much on the backend of the internet, from making Google searches possible to filling up your spam folder.

Bots measure the technical health of the internet, share information on natural disasters, predict disease outbreaksfulfill our lunch requests, and send news articles to networks of people on platforms like Twitter and Slack. They may even write some of those articles. They are also integral to social media propaganda campaignsdistributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and stock market manipulation. Bots have been shown to be capable of compelling humans to carry out small tasks and a “Siri-like” assistant has been proposed as a way to help drone pilots fire on their targets as a way to reduce “moral injury.”

Thinking about bots as semi-automated actors makes them a challenge in terms of design. It also makes them unusual in an ethical sense. Questions of deception and responsibility must be considered when discussing both the construction and functionality of bots.

Consider the ancient art of throwing voices. Read more