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Unfair But Effective Chatbots - Taking The Artificial Out Of Intelligence

The whole premise behind a chatbot is to make the experience of chatting with a machine sound anthropomorphic -- as close to possible as a human-to-human experience. So chatbot developers dig right in and try to make conversations amiable, likable, coherent and smart. They focus on the manner, delivery and tone of the responses to engage the humans. That may be fine and dandy, but they are missing a huge element.

My chatbot named Honest John, is made to sell cars. It is made to replace the car salesman. If you troll through my articles, you will find that the genesis of this started when friends of mine had a bad situation with a car salesman when they had to replace their vehicle due to hitting a deer on the highway. They remarked that they would rather deal with a computer, than the smarmy salesman who prevaricated all through the sales process. That was my Eureka moment.

I have already outlined in past articles, how I am going to add EQ and IQ to the chatbot. I am building in an emotion detector framework that will alter the selling and negotiation strategy if it starts to detect untoward emotions in the human on the other side of the screen. I am also putting in some Conversation Continuity objects in memory so that the machine is cognizant of the entire history of the conversation, including meta-data and analytics, so that it can reset the conversation if the negotiations go off the rails.

The technologies that I am using includes AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language), not only in a smart recursive role, but the predicates that detect the context of the conversation inputs, have a turbocharged assist with NLP (Natural Language Processing) as well as an ANN (Artificial Neural Network) monitor.

The reason why you want to detect emotion, is because Honest John the chatbot will have a series of strategies in his arsenal, and he will pick strategies according to cognitive context of what is going down. I have already mapped out a strategy framework using the following general factors:

  • geniality - does my subject respond to jokes or puns?
  • speed - does my subject cut to the chase or enjoy the interplay?
  • sensitivity - does my subject withdraw with aggressive negotiation?
  • intent - is my subject serious?
  • indecisive - does my subject have a clear idea of what they want?

While all of these attributes are important towards deriving a strategy framework, they are all predicated on thinking like a human. But what if a chatbot was programmed to behave better than a human? And do it with less intelligence but more forethought and strategy. After all, the great military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu who wrote "The Art of War" proclaimed “Great results, can be achieved with small forces.”

When I say strategy in this overall context, I don't mean the five attributes that I mentioned above when negotiating with a human. I mean the overarching strategy that takes into account, the idiosyncrasies and vagaries of the human mind. If you build something exploiting those principles, the chatbot will be super-efficient, effective and perhaps unfair. Our brains are not as logical as we think they are, and that can be exploited in an AI chatbot that is designed to do so.

The methodologies for exploiting the foibles of the human mind and giving your AI chatbot an advantage can be found in the unlikeliest places -- a bestseller book by a Nobel Prize laureate in economics. I am referring to the book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman is a psychologist who with his colleague, Amos Tversky, mapped the two modes of thinking by the human brain and won the Nobel Prize doing it.

Their discovery relates to the dichotomy of cognitive facilities in human thinking. We have the fast, intuitive, thin-slicing, non-logical part of our brains, and we have the slow, deliberate, highly logical and rational part of the brain. Kahneman has mapped the major effects of the fast-thinking part of our brains, and using the information that he has gleaned from his research, we can actually program a bot to utilize these effects to great success.
Here are some overall algorithmic effects in the human brain, that can be utilized by a chatbot to gain an advantage over the human using it.

The Lazy Controller

Humans would much rather use the fast-thinking part of the brains than the slow, rational part. They regularly hand over control of thoughts and actions to the fast-thinking mechanism, because it takes real work to use the rational part. Kahneman details the results of much research that shows when a human being is not relaxed, they use the intuitive, non-logical side by a wide margin. Ergo, using this principle, if a human is interacting with a chatbot at a kiosk while they are standing, the chatbot has a logical advantage over the person. Similarly if the chatbot appears in a very busy UIX (User Interface Experience) then the Lazy Controller takes over. The black-hat or evil programmers will us the UX or User Experience to nudge the humans to fast and logically flawed thinking. This combined with other fast-slow thinking effects can really increase the performance of a negotiating chatbot by using non-following faulty logic.

Priming The Associative Machine

There are many ways to incorporate the associative machine aspect into a chatbot. One can surreptitiously construct a proposition in a buyer's head and get them to believe it. That belief affects their future behavior. Sales people and advertisers do it all of the time. For example, if Honest John were not that honest, when he was selling a car, he would prime the associative machine in the following way:

  1. Most cars that sell over $50,000 have 6-way adjustable electric seats.
  2. This car has 6-way adjustable electric seats.
  3. This car is only $36,000.
  4. Therefore this car is comparable to a much more expensive car.

The associative machine creates cognitive ease by creating feelings of value, goodness, familiarity, truthiness (as Stephen Colbert calls it) and ease. Kahneman's research shows that something simple like bold text adds truthiness. He gave subjects a pair of untrue statements. One was in bolder text than the other, the subjects were asked to choose the true or truer statement and they always chose the one in bolder text. This is something to remember in text-based chatbot when you want emphasis.

On Being A Verbal Donald Trump

Donald Trump's speech has been analyzed by experts, and it is at the level of Grade Four student. If you notice, he uses phrases like "Very Bad" or "Sad" in a direct way with simple adjectives. This resonates with a majority of people and the psychology research backs it up. There are serious problems with using long words needlessly. One of the scholarly papers outlining the research and conclusions of this topic was called "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Irrespective of Necessity." Words that people don't understand or are too long, turn them off. In other words, eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation. Translated: Keep it simple, stupid. So my chatbot will tone down the big words, especially when things get critical and emotions start to heighten.

There are many many more of these mental mechanisms in Kahneman's book and incorporating these in the overall modality of chatbot response will make it into a highly useful chatbot, that in certain situations can have an unfair, but effective edge in dealing with human carbon units. The way to defeat Honest John and keep him honest, is to slow down, and do slow thinking all of the time. Anything that Honest John says, should be stored in a mental buffer and evaluated for truthiness. It is a very un-human thing to do, but Honest John does it, and so should you.

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