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The animated paperclip is always watching, always threatening to appear, always interrupting. This spring, despite the PR disaster of Microsoft’s Tay, the tech industry declared that chatbots would be The Next Big Thing, an assertion bolstered when Mark Zuckerberg announced at Facebook’s developer conference in April that the company’s 10 year roadmap would emphasize artificial intelligence, starting with chatbots on its Messenger platform. This bot, ELIZA, simulated a Rogerian psychiatrist. Artificial intelligence and cognitive science professor Roger Schank, a vocal critic of IBM’s marketing claims about Watson, responded to the Georgia Tech TA bot story: The artificial TA is not an attempt to understand TA’s, I assume.
The Office Assistant also provided access to the Answer Wizard, offering a series of possible solutions to a user’s help query.
And it sometimes appeared as an accompaniment to certain dialog boxes – saving or printing, for example.
They are also good at dealing with a natural environment such as the movement of objects and people in rooms, so if an interface can interact with the user to take advantage of these human talents, then you might not need a manual.” If you made the software social, people would find it easier to learn and use.
Microsoft Bob visualized the operating system as rooms in a house, with various icons of familiar household items representing applications – the clock opened the calendar, the pen and paper opened the word processing program.
Swartz suggests that part of the problem with Clippy was that it was poorly designed and then (mis)applied to the wrong domain. To be fair, no one actually wants to talk to a human either in many of the scenarios in which bots are utilized – in customer service, for example, where whether conducted by human or machine, interactions are highly scripted. The field has reached a point where “personal assistant” technologies like Siri and Alexa are now viable – or so we’re told. The chatbot TA, “Jill Watson,” would post questions and deadline reminders on the class’s discussion forum and answer students’ routine questions.
If you follow Nass and Reeves’ theories about humans’ expectations for interactions with computers, it’s clear that Clippy violates all sorts of social norms. The first chatbot was developed at the MIT AI Lab by Joseph Weizenbaum in the mid–1960s. The surname is a nod to the technology that powered the chatbot – IBM’s Watson. Well, like Tay and ELIZA and Siri and Alexa, these bots are female, as Clifford Nass explained in an interview with The Toronto Star, because of the stereotypes we have about the work – and the gender – of personal assistants, and by extension, perhaps, of teaching assistants.In all these instances, Clippy was meant to be friendly and helpful. Of course, software can be universally reviled and still marketed as good (ed-)tech. Bots also chat but as Clippy demonstrated, not always that effectively. The script always eventually asks about family, no matter what you type. That is, ELIZA was programmed to analyze the input for key words and to respond with a number of canned phrases containing therapeutical language.(See, for example, the learning management system.) But it seems doubtful that Clippy was all that effective at helping newcomers to Microsoft learn to use Office’s features, as Luke Swartz found in his study on Clippy and other user interface agents. And as one recent Techcrunch opinion writer lamented about the Facebook Messenger platform, “No one actually wants to talk to a bot.” That seems to be rather a crucial observation, often overlooked when hyping the capabilities of artificial intelligence. Or perhaps “I’m sad.” “I am sorry to hear you are sad,” ELIZA says. Many of the claims that one hears about “the rise of bots” (now and then and always) focus on AI’s purported advancements – particularly in the area of natural language processing. “Imagine Discovering That Your Teaching Assistant Really Is a Robot,” The Wall Street Journal wrote in May to describe an experiment conducted on students in an online course taught by Ashok Goel at Georgia Tech.Earlier this year, Microsoft made headlines when it debuted Tay, a new chatbot modeled to speak like a teenage girl, which rather dramatically turned into “a Hitler-loving sex robot within 24 hours” of its release, as The Telegraph put it.The Twitter bot was built to “learn” by parroting the words and phrases from the other Twitter users that interacted with it, and – because, you know, Twitter – those users quickly realized that they could teach Tay to say some really horrible things.In theory at least, this made sense as the number of consumers being introduced to the personal computer was growing rapidly – according to US Census data, in 1993 22.8% of households had computers, a figure that had grown to 42.1% by 1998. And more significantly, can the personal computer do the teaching?Microsoft drew on the work of Stanford professors Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves (who later joined the Bob project as consultants) and their research into human-computer interactions.And yet, despite our loathing and mockery of Clippy, pedagogical agents have been a mainstay in education technology for at least the past forty years – before the infamous Microsoft Office Assistant and since. The sudden and renewed interest in bots by tech investors and entrepreneurs, and the accompanying hype by industry storytelling, overlooks the fact that roughly half the traffic on the Internet is bots. The Georgia Tech program apparently was focused on answering student questions about due dates or assignments.These agents have frequently been features of intelligent tutoring systems, and by extension then, featured in education research. That probably is what TA’s actually do which makes the AI TA question a very uninteresting question. [emphasis mine] But, what about creating a real AI mentor? We would first need to study what kinds of help students seek.And as such, people respond to computers in social ways and in turn expect computers to follow certain social rules.“The question for Microsoft was how to make a computing product easier to use and fun,” Reeves said in a Stanford press release timed with the Computer Electronics Show’s unveiling of Microsoft Bob.