#Chatbots – and we need them because…?

Okay, all I know about chatbots is what I’ve been reading on Medium lately, and the frustrating experience of ringing my utility company and being forced to answer the STUPID questions of its chatbot.

You know how it goes. You ring and either have to wait forever for the call to be picked up, or the chatbot answers and asks for your account number when all you want is some general information. Grrrr….

So you dig out a utility bill and spit out the account number, knowing full well that if you get through to a real person they will ask you for the number again anyway.

Then the utility company bot asks you to explain the reason for your call. You grit your teeth and try to think of a one or three word description and e.n.u.n.c.i.a.t.e it as clearly as possible while growling in the back of your throat.

What happens next? The chatbot either mishears you, or simply doesn’t have a response for your particular query and asks if you want to speak to a customer service representative…

-face palm-

Do I want to speak to a real, live person? Oh god…

Anyway, if you look at this infographic from Medium, you will see a comparison between a chatbot ‘conversation’ and the same query via a simple Google search:

chatbots vs google

To me, there is no point in carrying on a long, inane Q&A ‘conversation’ with a chatbot when a word or two is all I need to get all the information I need from Papa Google. But am I just being an elitist nerd?

I rather suspect I am. In fact, I rather suspect that most people who regularly use computers are elitist nerds. Why? Because using a computer is actually a lot harder than learning how to use apps on a smartphone. That is why smartphone use has skyrocketed world wide. It is also the reason some pundits believe the days of the desktop [computer] are over. Why pay so much and have to go through such a steep learning curve to do things a smartphone can do so much easier?

There is a part of me that wants to scream that what a smartphone can do is just a fraction of what a ‘proper’ computer can do, but the words barely form before I get a flash of the early 80’s and the emergence of the personal computer. Back then, PCs were much less powerful than mainframes, and I’m sure a lot of old school programmers could not see why everyone couldn’t just learn FORTRAN or something…

So…smartphones may be to the future what PCs were to the past because they are:

  • cheaper,
  • convenient,
  • portable in a real sense,
  • easy to use, and
  • a growth market

But I hope, truly ruly hope that chatbots are just the toddler stage of a technological progression that will end [?] with real voice recognition and real AI support.

Until then, I’ll stick with old school search engines and my antiquated desktop because…I’m an elitist dinosaur with poor eyesight and a pathological hatred of chatbots.



About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

12 responses to “#Chatbots – and we need them because…?

  • chrisjames282

    I’m totally with you on this, Meeks. Where to start? I remember 40 years ago when calculators came along, which meant we didn’t have to learn logarithms anymore. Oh, how we laughed at the fuddy-duddy old maths teacher who said it was the beginning of a slippery slope; that if we let calculators do all the work for us, we’d all grow up idiots… Let’s flip it over to the future and think about AI, and how implants might even remove the need to learn to read and write – I think smartphones are just one more step on that path. There’ll will always people who want to learn for the sake of acquiring knowledge, but there’ll always be more who are content to let technology do everything for them, which is why calculators/smartphones/AI have done/are doing/will do so well!
    As for the bloody smartphones themselves, I feel like Basil Fawlty: “I mean, what is the point???!!!” 15 years ago I had a mobile phone that was actually mobile, in that I only had to charge it once a week. Why on earth people think that a device you have to charge almost constantly in any way qualifies as “mobile” is totally beyond me. But, then again, smartphones are jam-packed with all kinds of bright, sparkly rubbish to keep the kids entertained. So much easier than actually thinking for oneself…
    Ack, sorry for the rant. Feeling better now, thanks. Phew! 🙂


    • acflory

      LMAO! Very welcome. And I share at least some of your nostalgia…except for the logarithms. I can honestly say I’m happy to live without those.
      I have a smartphone, but only use it like an old style phone…well, apart from the camera, I do love the camera. Oh and the |EmergencyAus app. Okay…but that is it! lol


    • drewdog2060drewdog2060

      I learned to touch type prior to the birth of the internet or mobile phones and find this a great advantage as voice recognition software is still very much in it’s infancy. I will use the internet on my mobile but feel much more comfortable accessing it on my laptop (I haven’t used a desktop for many years)! As for implants doing away with the need to learn to read and write, there is a difference between the ability to perform a task and comprehending the purpose behind it. For example if an implant is invented giving the user access to the whole of discovered human knowledge, it will be wholly useless if not combined with the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. As a non-physicist I can read a paper on physics but it would go in one ear and out the other, likewise an implant giving access to all this information will (probably), in many instances be of little or no use to many people. Kevin


      • acflory

        I’m a touch typist too, Kevin, so I find mobiles incredibly slow and frustrating. I wouldn’t mind an implant with all that knowledge available to me, but…I’d want an incredibly sophisticated search function to go with it. Maybe it could have a physics filter like ‘find data only if suitable for an 8 year old’. That would suit me I think. 🙂


  • davidprosser

    I think most smartphones are just as-if not more- expensive than a computer today. And, what you gain in portability, you lose in
    a) The ability to see clearly
    b) The ability to type without covering more than one letter with your finger/thumb and having to go back to retype.
    c) The joy of not having predictive text which can turn the most innocent sentence rude.

    If I have to use something outside, I’d rather use a tablet which means I can still use a search engine much easier.But inside, it’s the age of the dinosaur for me with my desktop machine.



    • acflory

      lol – thank you for bringing up the things I forgot! I’m okay with predictive text, maybe coz I don’t use it all that often, but the letters? I don’t have big fingers but typing anything is agonising. 😦


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