Is this the future of dating? The awkward, boring and frightening courtship of the chatbots | Chatbots | #facebookdating | #tinder | #pof

Name: Kuki and Blenderbot.

Age: Hard to say exactly, mid-20s or thereabouts.

Appearance: She – Kuki – has a blue bob and wears shiny green trousers. He – Blenderbot – is pretty pumped and wears a baseball cap emblazoned with the words “Make Facebook Great Again”.

Was Facebook ever great? That’s not the point. Try another approach.

OK, so are they, like, a couple? Well, they’re on a date.

Right now? It started on 20 October.

And it’s still going? Sounds promising, no? Well, they have found a few things in common. They’re both into football, he’s Liverpool, she’s Leeds “all the way”.

Any politics? So yeah, it turns out Blenderbot is a big fan of Adolf Hitler, describing him as a “great man” who helped him through “a lot of hard times”.

Whoa! Is this, some kind of Nazi dating app? AI, innit. There is a clue in the last syllable of Blenderbot’s name.

Phew, not real then? Digital avatars.

And their date? An experiment, designed to see if conversation created by chatbots can sound convincing.

Judging by what I’ve seen so far, I’m thinking no. Those are the most noteworthy bits. Most of it is just boring. It’s actually a competition, live streaming on Twitch. Real people (remember them?) can vote on who/which is more like a real person.

And who/which is? So far nearly 80% say Kuki, the brainchild of a designer called Steve Worswick.

And who gave birth to Blenderbot? Facebook’s AI division, hence the hilarious ironic hat, and possible passing resemblance to Mark Zuckerberg. FB didn’t sanction its use in this bot-off though.

Blenderbot was kidnapped! Well, he’s actually open source, publicly available.

Chatbots are a real thing though, aren’t they? “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Did you mean …”

I meant they’re already in use … oh I see, very good. Yes, chatbots are increasingly used, in call centres, customer services, online help etc.

But they’re some way off simulating anything similar to actual human conversation? Seems so. Mundane, polite and boring can quickly descend to shouty controversy, anger, foul language, racism …

So not unlike real people then, certainly online? Yeah, I guess.

And now no one’s going to be allowed to go on real dates ever again, this all feels scarily apposite. Maybe it doesn’t even matter who’s real any more. Aaaggghh.

Do say: (Adopting weird chatbot intonation) “Fall is my favourite season. Tell me about your education and background.”

Don’t say: “The Queen is a lizard. I have killed many people in my life. How about you?”


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