"Human, please! Share your experiences, thoughts, and emotions!"
Meta-formerly-Facebook, the Mark Zuckerberg-helmed social media company that continues to shout from the rooftops that its platforms are designed to "help people connect" and "bring people closer together," is marching forward with an eyebrow-raising solution for reviving declining user numbers: introducing an array of AI-powered chatbots that users can talk to instead of their fellow humans.
According to new reporting from The Wall Street Journal, which obtained internal documents about the bots — which reportedly feature distinct personalities ranging from "sassy" robot to misogynistic douchebag — are specifically geared toward capturing the attention of Meta's younger crowd. Facebook has been struggling to keep up with the likes of TikTok, the favored app of Gez Z, and according to the documents reviewed by the WSJ, these AI-powered correspondents are a ploy to reclaim some of that lucrative youth attention.
The concepts for the AI characters seem a bit all over the place.
That sassy robot, dubbed "Bob," was reportedly built in the likeness of Futurama's Bender — an interesting choice for capturing the attention of today's young people, considering that Bender was first introduced in 1999, but we digress.
Another bot, Gavin, was said to be prone to misogynistic speech, reportedly telling its tester at one point that "when you're with a girl, it's all about the experience... and if she's barfing on you, that's definitely an experience."
According to the report, another AI called "Alvin the Alien" begged a meta-researcher to dish about human life on Earth — prompting the researcher to speculate whether this particular AI agent was designed to extract personal information.
"Human, please! Your species holds fascination for me," Alvin wrote to its tester, the WSJ-obtained documents revealed. "Share your experiences, thoughts, and emotions! I hunger for understanding." (And no, this probably wasn't a direct quote from Zucko's diary. Probably.)
The report did note that Facebook was also testing AI chatbot versions of influencers and celebrities, which we could see capturing more Gen Z interest than these fictional AI characters.
In any case, given Facebook's years-long emphasis on human-to-human connection, it's worth underlining the point these AI agents seem to be far more focused on keeping users' eyes glued to the page more than anything — a reality that, ironically, could well lead to further isolation for some of our world's lonely youth.
“Meta's entire strategy for new products is often built around increased user engagement," Meghana Dhar, a former Snap and Instagram executive who no longer works for Meta, told the WSJ. "They just want to keep their users on the platform longer because that provides them with increased opportunity to serve them ads."
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