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A few facts about Bots

1 December 2017

This scenario might sound familiar: you are filling out an e-form or providing your personal info on a website sign-up page and encounter one of two following pictures:

have you ever wondered: what is this? Why I am asked to confirm my humanity?

Well, websites are interested in ensuring that the user is indeed human by presenting simple questions that bots cannot answer.

Wait, you might say. What's a bot?

A bot, short for robot, is a software designed to collect information or perform activities by masquerading as a legit user. In other words, a bot is an application sitting on a computer and completing and/or performing tasks automatically.

When do we encounter bots?

Nearly all search engines use bots in order to scan web pages, save and analyze keywords and present search results to users.

A number of business organizations that operate a substantial phone-based customer service added a chatbot feature. This feature is a conversation-based user interface used for interaction between customers and customer service. These interfaces simulate a natural conversation with an actual human being (as much as possible) while the representative is in practice a robot addressing the questions. The conversation develops according to prewritten scripts. The advanced chatbots are based on AI and machine learning. The chatbot saves precious time for both clients and organizations as well as reduces costs of operating call centers.


Are bots good or bad?

Some bots are good, such as bots designed to notify users when websites go off the air. Some are less positive. Many bots were planned as viruses and Trojan horses which attack websites. Furthermore, the web is full of bots copying content from websites then pasting it on designated websites in order to lure searching users and gain the advertisement rather than the original websites.

A substantial portion of bots intentionally affect advertisement campaigns (by entering the same message multiple times) in order to increase ad profit. Other bots masquerade as search engines while actually collecting business intelligence via spying software.


In conclusion, now that we know of the worst kind of bots we can understand why websites try to avoid them and ask us to answer a number of questions. Who knows what role bots will play in our future. Some say that apps will be totally replaced by bots since users will prefer a bot or several bots to assist them in various tasks (ordering food/flights/rooms, sports/news updates, coordinating meetings, etc.) Others maintain that apps are here to stay since we bots are simply not sufficiently developed.  Siri, for example, wasn't much of a success; people eventually realize they are speaking with a bot and aren't always satisfied.

This matter also raises the ethical dilemma: how should we refer to bots? What could count as harassment? How should bots be humanized without generating sexism/racism etc.

This is just one more fascinating aspect of our new technological world.


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