Skip to main content

Future chatbots will be able to argue with you enough to help change your mind

chatbots
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Artificial intelligence tools like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa don’t really try and change your mind too much, but maybe they should!

That is the idea behind new research being carried out by Dr. Samira Shaikh, an assistant professor in Cognitive Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Computer Science. She developed a smart chatbot that’s goal is not just to carry out a conversation with users, but to actually engage them in arguments and counterarguments with the specific aim of changing a person’s mind.

“ Alan Turing’s question: ‘Can machines think?’ was one of the fundamental questions that interested me as I began my research in AI and natural language processing,” Shaikh told Digital Trends. “My goal in this work was to see if we could inch a few steps closer to answering Turing’s original question by merging the insights from social psychology and cognitive science with AI. I wanted to see if certain elements of human communication can be recreated effectively by an algorithm — and I chose the human behavior of persuasion specifically since it is nearly ubiquitous in human communication. This is a problem that needs solving along the way to achieving true machine intelligence.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

As we noted, chatbots that argue with you regardless of your query is not likely to find too much favor with customers, but Shaikh says there are still times such a tool may be useful.

“Sure, there are use-cases where you would want the agent to explore only a certain subset of topics, but there will still be potential for persuasive behavior in these scenarios,” she continued. “The conversation with an intelligent agent could center on topics including politics and social issues, or what brand of paper towels to buy next.”

Looking further into the future, as chatbots take on new roles as carers and confidantes, an argumentative AI could be incredibly useful. For example, it may be able to help you prepare for a job interview, or for lawyers to better hone arguments for a court case.

“This persuasive behavior is based on the theory of planned behavior, a well-established theory of social influence,” Shaikh said. “I adapted this theory to my work, where the communicator is attempting to persuade the receiver by sending them tailored messages and certain behaviors that are triggered in the agent depending on what has happened so far the conversation. Humans can do this quite effectively, generally speaking, the only difference is that in my framework, the communicator is a computer agent.”

Shaikh said her argumentative chatbot is fully operational and is being tested in a variety of scenarios designed to see if it can change a person’s mind. A preliminary paper on the work is published in the journal AI Matters.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
This AI cloned my voice using just three minutes of audio
acapela group voice cloning ad

There's a scene in Mission Impossible 3 that you might recall. In it, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tackles the movie's villain, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to read a bizarre series of sentences aloud.

"The pleasure of Busby's company is what I most enjoy," he reluctantly reads. "He put a tack on Miss Yancy's chair, and she called him a horrible boy. At the end of the month, he was flinging two kittens across the width of the room ..."

Read more
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more