Skip to main content

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

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.”

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…
Levi’s Virtual Stylist helps you slip into the jeans of your dreams
virtual stylist

Move over, Tommy Hilfinger. Levi Strauss & Co has a new chatbot that sells the most essential piece of your wardrobe. On Thursday, the pedigreed fashion brand launched Virtual Stylist, a bot that helps customers compare styles, find sizes, and pick the jeans of their dreams.

"By strategically tapping into emerging technologies like AI (artificial intelligence), we can give consumers a more personal and convenient experience like what they would find in store, thus increasing conversation and driving online sales growth," Levi's said in a statement. "This will allow the shopping experience to be consistent and seamless for consumers no matter where and how they shop."

Read more
Glamix is a new AI chatbot that can help you find your dream outfit
glamix ai chatbot screen shot 2017 05 21 at 6 56 55 pm

Your personal stylist is now your smartphone thanks to a new chatbot called Glamix. It's the latest product to come out of AI and fashion startup Syte, and promises to help users find any outfit they see anywhere with nothing more than a few taps and swipes on their mobile devices. Glamix claims to leverage automatic responses with sophisticated image recognition to help you create your dream outfit in just seconds. So don't keep staring hopelessly at your closet. Pull out your phone and let Glamix help.

Let's say your friend is sporting a miniskirt you're coveting. If you happen to find a photo of her wearing it on Instagram, you can send that picture directly to Glamix, and find a wide range of options that either match or are similar to your desired piece. In fact, you can send any image from the web or from your camera roll to Glamix, and the chatbot will help you find that must-have item.

Read more
New virtual assistant may have you saying "OK Djingo" to your next phone
djingo virtual assistant news ai speaker

It’s not enough that Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, Alexa, Bixby, and many other virtual assistants are on-hand every day, ready to help out with our every whim; there are still companies that think we need another one. The latest is named Djingo, and it’s a joint project between mobile networks Orange and Deutsche Telekom, which makes it a bigger deal than you may initially think.

Djingo has been announced at an event in Paris, France, and shown off as an Amazon Echo Dot-style speaker, but it will also be released as an app on devices, and there are plans to integrate it into a remote control for Orange’s set-top TV boxes. Unsurprisingly, it’s woken by an “OK Djingo” keyword, and the demonstration showed Djingo playing a requested audio track, and sending a tweet. It will also be able to make calls, send SMS, and control connected smart home devices.

Read more