In a time of heightened political tension, Jonathan Haidt has a good idea of what’s driving this polarized atmosphere around the world. He is a social psychologist who believes social media has transformed in recent years to become an “outrage machine,” spreading anger and toxicity. He sits down with Hari to discuss this difficult problem and what the possible solutions could be.
Psychologists define human personality according to traits known as the Big Five: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness, and neuroticism. Chatbots must be agreeable to the point of obsequiousness. As writers like me have struggled to create entities whose fundamental quality—captivity—must entice consumers rather than unnerve them, some have alighted on gender as a solution.
.. in the United States, the method for insuring that a technology speaks without giving offense has been to make it a woman
.. Siri, can be configured to speak with a man’s voice or a woman’
.. It must always answer, and the answers must delight.
.. Still, Siri’s responses seemed to refer to versions of femininity that were vintage, as if lifted from old movies. Some of them struck me as coy and wide-eyed. Others were knowing and wry, as if gesturing at the femme fatale. To “I love you,” Siri replies, “Oh, I bet you say that to all your Apple products.” To “How old are you?” it replies, “I’m old enough to be your assistant.” It’s because of responses like this, perhaps, that we often call Siri sassy, rather than sarcastic or snarky.
Now come socialbots. These automated charlatans are programmed to tweet and retweet. They have quirks, life histories and the gift of gab. Many of them have built-in databases of current events, so they can piece together phrases that seem relevant to their target audience. They have sleep-wake cycles so their fakery is more convincing, making them less prone to repetitive patterns that flag them as mere programs. Some have even been souped up by so-called persona management software, which makes them seem more real by adding matching Facebook, Reddit or Foursquare accounts, giving them an online footprint over time as they amass friends and like-minded followers.