The internet is a vast and confusing place; a medley of code, hosts, databases and information. When your average Joe does the online shopping or chats on Facebook, they only see the surface, the end result, but there’s so much more happening underneath. Take bots, for example. Bots are automated pieces of code that are designed to do things without users noticing. Where a robot is a physical machine, a bot is software in the cloud, and they can be made to function in any number of ways. A bot might create a calendar event in one app as a result of a text message in another. A bot might write a grocery list out of regularly purchased items. A bot might even manage your prescriptions of deliveries.
The point is: they’re diverse, and you’d do well to get to know the different types.
One of the more pressing advances in bot tech recently has been ‘Chatbots.’ Chatbots are programs that we as humans can interact with. They’re a kind of ‘customer service’ bot that can fetch information, respond to questions and ask for info in exchange. Pretty cool, right? But some fear that, as chatbots become more advanced, they might begin to have a negative impact on our lives, taking jobs from human workers and reducing person-to-person interaction on a daily basis. Such radical shifts are yet to take place on a large scale, however, so we shouldn’t be too worried just yet; 8 out of 10 adults would still prefer a human over a bot in today's market according to one study. Automation has its benefits of course but there’s little room for nuance or explanation when something goes wrong when a program’s on the other end of the line.
Code isn’t moral – it just does what it’s told to by the humans who created it. And that means bots aren’t always moral, either. In the online world, virtual currency takes many forms, be it bitcoin, Litecoin or gold pieces in an MMORPG. In turn, each of these currencies has a relevant real-world value, meaning that earning it can equal large profit for hosts.
Introducing game bots.
These clients and programs are designed to interact with games, say World of Warcraft for example, in a way that earns said virtual currency. No human is present behind the screen, just numbers and buttons. Developers take steps to crack down on such surreptitious users, of course, but it’s a war of attrition in the code below the game. The companies and individuals involved in trafficking online gold after its earned by these bots are often linked to other crime around the world. That makes fighting these programs all the more important.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Bots can be incredibly useful precisely because they’re amoral. Programs don’t have emotions or bias. At the end of the day, they take in code, process it and pump out an answer. AI bots are used often to help with things like stock and online forex trading as a result. These automated miracle tools can save and make incredible amounts of money for their users. They play the odds and statistics instead of gut feelings, and that can mean net gain over time; numbers don’t lie, after all.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are tiers of quality for any bot, especially ones that can be as complex as these. Old or out of date trade bots may damage a user’s prospects in the online or forex market, whereas a top of the line program might be of considerable help. When the fate of the world rests on a decimal place here or there, users will want to ensure they’re operating the latter.
There are a huge amounts of myths, stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding bot technology. The reality of the situation is that we all use it every day and, without it, the world would be a much slower, inefficient place. As time goes on, however, questions begin to be raised: how much is too much? To what extent should we trust money, customer service or even our lives to a piece of code? Many services and industries want to reduce human error as much as possible, and that’s an understandable goal. But bot error can be a serious issue too. Sometimes, your gut feeling counts. Sometimes it’s what isn’t in the data, rather than what is, that matters.
The misconception that, in ten or twenty years, we’ll all be out of a job because of AI just doesn’t have much evidence. Artificial, learning, growing technology is far from perfect and, until a bot can go off script, adapt and evolve, it won’t be. And at that point, is it even a bot anymore?