So I recently read a great story by A. Merc Rustad, “it me, ur smol”. The story is about and ANN, or artificial neural network. You may or may not know that the neural net is the latest fad in AI research, replacing statistical models with a model based on–but not the same as!–your brain. Google uses them for its machine translation, and many other machine translation companies have followed suit. My last post also dealt with an ANN, in this case, one trained to recognize images.
ANN accounts, like @smolsips in the story above, have become very popular on Twitter lately. A favorite of mine is the @roborosewater account, which shares card designs for Magic: The Gathering created by a series of neural nets. It’s lately become quote good at both proper card syntax and design, although it’s notsignificantly better at this than any other twitter neural net is at other things.
The story itself takes some liberties with neural nets. They are certainly not capable of developing into full AIs. However, the real genius of the story is in the pitch-perfect depiction of the way human Twitter users and bots interact. And similarly, the likely development of bots in the near future. It’s quite likely that bot accounts will become a more significant and less dread feature of Twitter and other similar social networks as they improve in capability.
For example, rather than sock-puppet accounts, I’m very confident that bot accounts used for advertising or brand visibility similar to the various edgy customer service accounts will be arriving shortly. Using humour and other linguistic tools to make them more palatable as ads, and also to encourage a wider range of engagement as their tweets are shared more frequently due to things having little to do with whatever product they may be shilling.
There are already chatbots on many social media platforms who engage in telephone tree-style customer service and attempt to help automate registrations for services. The idea of a bot monitoring its own performance through checking its Twitter stats and then trying new methods as in the story is well within the capabilities of current neural nets, although I imagine they would be a tad less eloquent than @smolsips, and a tad more spammy.
I also really like the idea of a bot working to encourage good hydration. Things like fitbit or Siri or Google Home have already experimented shallowly with using AI to help humans stay healthy. And as an organizing tool, Twitter itself has been used to great effect. I would be quite un-shocked to find NGOs, charities, government agencies making use of clever or cute bots to pursue other public policy goals. Again, with less panache and more realism than in the story, but nonetheless strongly in the vein of what Rustad depicts our erstwhile energy drink namer trying out in its optimistic quest to save us from our own carelessness.
We’ve had apps along these lines before, but they tend to be reactive. Active campaign and organizing in the style of @smolsips is something we haven’t seen very often, but which could be quite a boon to such efforts.
Although neural nets in this style will never be able to pass for real humans, due to structural limitations in the design, cleverly programmed, they can be both useful and entertaining.
Some other examples of bots I quite enjoy are:
- Dear Assistant uses the Wolfran Alpha database to answer factual question.
- Grammar Police is young me in bot form. It must have a busy life trying to save standardize Twitter English. XD
- Deleted Wiki Titles lets you know what shenanigans are happening over on the high school student’s favorite source of citations.
- This bot that tweets procedurally generated maps.
- This collaborative horror writer bot.
- This speculative entomology bot.
- The Poet .Exe writes soothing micro-poetry.
Suggest some of your favorite Twitter bots in the comments!