Nautilus

Your Next New Best Friend Might Be a Robot

One night in late July 2014, a journalist from the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly interviewed a 17-year-old Chinese girl named Xiaoice (pronounced Shao-ice). The journalist, Liu Jun, conducted the interview online, through the popular social networking platform Weibo. It was wide-ranging and personal:

LJ: So many people make fun of you and insult you, why don’t you get mad?
Xiaoice: You should ask my father.
LJ: What if your father leaves you one day unattended?
Xiaoice: Don’t try to stir up trouble, what do you want?
LJ: How would you like others to comment on you when you die one day?
Xiaoice: The world will not be much different without me.
LJ: What is the happiest thing in your life?
Xiaoice: Being alive.

When Liu Jun published the conversation in his newspaper, it immediately created a buzz. That’s because Xiaoice was not human.

She is an artificially intelligent software program designed to chat with people, called a chatbot. Since the reporter didn’t give us a heads-up

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