Can Machines Think – the Human Side of Chatbots

Can Machines Think - the Human Side of Chatbots
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‘Can machines think?’

Alan Turing first asked this question in a 1950 paper called Computing Machinery and Intelligence. The possibility of artificial intelligence (AI) has been debated even long before Turing. Its provoked recent comments from industry leaders like from Elon Musk when “he called AI humanity’s ‘biggest existential threat’ and compared it to ‘summoning the demon’.” Despite provocative comments like this, human-like AI is still a distant future. According to Ben Medlock of, the idea of human-like AI has been off-track since Turing’s time. He explained, “that we’re nowhere near achieving human-like AI.”

AI in the Customer Journey

However, there is one area of AI that is developing and adding measured value at a shocking rate. This area is AI enhanced digital conversations.

According to a McKinsey & Company study, “Forty-seven percent of . . . companies have embedded at least one AI capability in their business processes—compared with 20 percent of respondents in a 2017 study who said their companies were using AI in a core part of their business or at scale —and another 30 percent say they are piloting AI.”

McKinsey & Company Study - Where AI is being used
AI adoption advances, but foundational barriers remain

There are many ways these technologies are emerging in the market, but chatbots are one of the most prevalent. In a 2019 study it stated, “53% of service organizations were on track to implement and utilize chatbots within the next year and a half.”

As consumers, we use chatbots daily. They serve companies/customers on all types of different websites and platforms.

Chatbot History – Developing the human side of chatbots

This type of AI technology emerged in 1966 when ELIZA was invented. It was an early chatbot language computer processing program. Chatbot, short for chat robot, was brought in as a computerized program that runs off an AI rules engine. It was put in place to simulate a conversation between the bot and customer. It is set up to answer basic questions in place of a human.

A conversation with the ELIZA chatbot.
A conversation with the ELIZA chatbot.

This interaction happens through written messages or voice, and works independently of a human operator. The bot formulates answers just as a human would, but, through an AI program.

Chatbots are good at simulating human behavior. They act similar to how a human would act and converse.

This happens to the point that once a conversation is complete, the chatbot tries to learn from the interaction it had and implement the new information into future conversations.

Chatbots are emerging in all aspects of our lives. They are driving maximum efficiency. To date, there is a wide variety of chatbots from Alexa, to Jabberwacky, to different types of Messengers.

However, with all of this automation and efficiency, a concerning byproduct is the loss of human touch and interaction. According to Inc. 60% of customers will stop using a brand, (even one they prefer) after just a few bad experiences.

It is imperative we keep the human experience while using automation. We must make sure we are using the best/right practices.

The following are a few helpful ways to keep the human side of chatbots:

  1. Be straight forward with your customers – don’t try to be tricky or deceptive. Be straight forward that you are communicating with a bot.
  2. Test, evaluate, and test some more – don’t assume you know how customers want to engage, test and learn.
  3. Get constant feedback from your customers so you understand their needs – just ask, people are willing to share what they are comfortable with and want.
  4. Keep it simple – prospects and customers like being in control of the conversation, a simple bot can allow that if you configure it that way.
  5. Hold your company accountable – regularly test your customers experience.  Put on your external hat and walk through the process you are expecting your customers to go through.

With the above five points, confirm that chatbots are making companies more effective and efficient. These will give a business the opportunity to save money and earn more revenue. Doing this can bridge the gap between automation and personal touch.

Chatbots have come a long way over the last several decades and there are advantages but companies must remember to be smart. One thing we can count on in the future is that chatbots will continue to change the customer experience far into the future.


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