The Bot Is Deceitful Above All Things

The Institute for the Future, a Palo Alto, California–based think tank, last week concluded a competition in which clusters of person-impersonating code commonly known as Twitter bots fought to rack up as many follows, retweets, and responses as possible from real, live Twitter ­users. Entrants selected personalities for their creations (e.g., “happy + bored + sad”; “interested in politics and technology”), programmers programmed, and the bots were set loose to fill their feeds with provocative articles, deep thoughts, and bleats of emotion scraped from news sites and personal blogs. As the contest played out, it was a bot called 1Qbit1 whose algorithm did best at generating tweets projecting the most convincing mix of profundity, self-involvement, and disregard for punctuation:

I’m feeling sad I eat steak

I feel excited about this maybe this is what I need

I feel overwhelmingly excited I have so much to look forward to at home family friends pets job car ect

I feel like anytime I get really excited about something it just turns to mush in my metaphorical hands

I’m having a hard time actually feeling excited about anything right now

I feel extremely sad and bad when I see the fate of these young people

Will Quantum computing enable us to recreate the soul?

(Replied @Alice_Moniquel: no.)

How will we sustain the migration from real to virtual?

(@Alice_Monique1: the same way we created the virtual, “from the inside”. We create it, sustain it and are able to destroy it.)

I feel happy with you because I choose to

I felt happy and butterflies and all those other annoying feelings you get when you’re happy and crushing on someone

I feel sad when you choose to spend time with your friends on friday nights

I feel very sad to leave him

(@Alice_Monique1: don’t leave him :))

:) Okay I’ll try not to do it too much

I feel happy I feel sad I feel like running through the walls

I expect you would feel sad and frightened wouldn’t you

In the end, 1Qbit1 would’ve had reason to feel bummed, if it had actual feelings—the bot finished in the runner-up spot, barely missing out on first place. In its final tweet, it focused not on itself but instead contemplated the broader implications of the competition:

Will we reach a point where the real and the virtual will be merged into a new reality?

Responded @CNScoville: “Beats me. I don’t even know how the toaster works.”

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The Bot Is Deceitful Above All Things