Since last November, when ChatGPT was unveiled to humanity, the public has been dazzled by conversational computing platforms that can seemingly write anything with ease.
People who use the Internet have surely come across a chatbot before, but not one with so few restrictions about what it can and cannot write.
Typically, chatbots are encountered on a business’ or other organization’s website, in the form of the “Hi, I’m here to answer your questions!” pop-up in the bottom right corner of the screen. No, that is not a real person waiting to address website visitors’ questions and comments; it is a conversational computing platform.
Even with the public familiarization to this exciting AI technology, there is still a lot of confusion about how exactly chatbots work.
If you find yourself in this boat, know that you are not alone. Most people know that ChatGPT’s ability to crank out entire essays and poems in lightning speed is not magic. It is technology, but when you do not quite understand the technology behind such advancements, then it may well feel like magic.
Allow us to dispel chatbots for you, then.
The Most Important Thing to Know About Chatbots
The number one thing to understand about conversational computing platforms is that they do not actually understand, in a deep “common sense” way, what they are saying.
Here is an example to illustrate:
Say you run a hospital, and employ chatbots to more easily field appointments.
The chatbots connect patients to doctors based on illness, injury, or other medical issue and the doctors’ specialty.
So, patients who say they have foot pain will be scheduled by the chatbot for an appointment with a podiatrist.
And the patients do get scheduled for an appointment and end up getting the treatment they need. The chatbot, then, has done its job correctly, and you see that it is a good investment.
But here is the kicker: That AI does not understand what foot pain actually is, or why the patient needs to see a podiatrist.
The AI does not have a foot, nor does it experience pain. It cannot even imagine pain, let alone imagine anything. The very concept of pain is inaccessible to AI’s understanding.
It is obvious that AI does not have human feet, but this is deeply significant for understanding chatbots.
Explaining Chatbots’ Lack of Common Sense
Chatbots’ skill in Natural Language Processing (NLP) is built up in the training phase, where it analyzes countless data of written content.
AI learns by recognizing patterns, such as what words occur together and what words do not. Patterns also include recognizing structures, such as the grammatical structures of sentences.
Through NLP, chatbots learn everything except the deeper, “common sense” meanings of words. Not even sophisticated NLP algorithms can teach chatbots that, because common sense is something that belongs to human brains, not algorithms.
Algorithms, as mentioned, can detect patterns, but emotion and imagination are not a part of algorithms. As a result, AI will always be limited to simply recognizing what words are related in different contexts, such as “foot pain” and “podiatrist”, without understanding just what foot pain or podiatrists are.
Knowing Chatbots’ Limits Allow You to Effectively Use Them
For your business, knowing that chatbots have no common sense can be helpful in creating a strategy for using them.
Chatbots are useful for automating written tasks that are more service or information-oriented, such as answering customer questions.
However, when it comes to angry customers, it is best to leave that to a human customer relations rep. A chatbot can recognize angry tones and language by analyzing the content of sentences, but its lack of emotional reality means it cannot adequately address an angered customer’s emotional back-and-forth.
So, leave the simple stuff to chatbots so that you can free up your human workers for the more common-sense tasks.
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