Pop-culture references to Skynet and a forthcoming “war against the machines” are perhaps a little too common in articles about AI (including this one and Larry’s post about Google’s RankBrain tech), but they do raise somewhat uncomfortable questions about the unexpected side of developing increasingly sophisticated AI constructs – including seemingly harmless chatbots.
Malicious chatbots are frequently used to fill chat rooms with spam and advertisements, by mimicking human behavior and conversations or to entice people into revealing personal information, such as bank account numbers. They are commonly found on Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and other instant messaging protocols. There has also been a published report of a chatbot used in a fake personal ad on a dating service's website.[54]
“There is hope that consumers will be keen on experimenting with bots to make things happen for them. It used to be like that in the mobile app world 4+ years ago. When somebody told you back then… ‘I have built an app for X’… You most likely would give it a try. Now, nobody does this. It is probably too late to build an app company as an indie developer. But with bots… consumers’ attention spans are hopefully going to be wide open/receptive again!” — Niko Bonatsos, Managing Director at General Catalyst

This form of artificial intelligence was first developed by MIT Professor Joseph Weizenbaum in the 1960’s and named ELIZA. It wasn’t until 2011, when chatbots had a resurgence with the inception of WeChat in China. Customers could create chatbots on this platform and interact with one another seamlessly. In 2016, Facebook introduced its own chatbots which paved the way for this form of artificial intelligence to enter and interact with mainstream media consumption.
At Facebook’s F8 Developers Conference, Messenger Bots were announced. These bots are being developed by media corporations and retailers alike and very quickly so which raises the question as to what a Messenger bot is and how it’s useful to so many different types of companies. Even more important to know is what these bots mean for the average user, whether or not they will always be safe or can they present a potential threat if they are developed by anyone with malicious intent. Here’s a the answer to all that and more.
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