Google Invents Robot That Writes Your Social Media Posts; Facebook Could Someday Run On Autopilot
In the future, all of our social media interactions — every tweet and comment on a Facebook friend's status update — may be written by bots that mimic our personality and writing tone. The technology exists now, according to a patent application filed by Google this month. It describes the invention like this: "Automated generation of suggestions for personalized reactions in a social network."
Google says its program can be applied to any form of communication, including email or instant messaging. The goal, they say, is to help social media users stay on top of the constant information stream by noticing important posts or messages from friends and suggesting a possible "personalized reaction." It could be a like, a share, or even a comment in your own words — all based on a computerized analysis of the user's history. "There is no requirement for the user to set reminders or be proactive," Google writes in the patent application. "The system automatically, without user input, analyzes information to which the user has access, and generates suggestions for personalized reactions to messages."
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The inventors write that "it is often difficult for users to keep up with and reply to all the messages they are receiving." They go on to give the example of a friend who has announced that he or she has accepted a new job. "It may be very important to say 'congratulations.'" But with so many friends competing for users' attention, "it is possible for a person to miss such an update." With a Google social media assistant keeping an eye on our Facebook calendar, Twitter feed, or Instagram reel, we may someday never have to disconnect.
Critics have already pounced. They focus their concerns on privacy and the breakdown of interpersonal social fabric. Nick Pickles, director of the U.K. privacy organization Big Brother Watch, told the Daily Mail that "technology like this must only ever be opt-in, as it has the potential to allow companies like Google to harvest even more data from your private communications." He said, "If you regularly send a text message about a certain type of medication or email a lawyer with words like 'divorce' appearing, the computer can quite easily identify you to a human searching through the data looking for certain things."
Hadley Beeman, a tech policy adviser, told the BBC that it's unlikely the system could be as good as Google suggests. Perhaps it will automate straightforward posts, but machines can never imitate the interactions that affect real people. She said, for example, that messages that seem trivial to a robot might actually be important. "If I had lunch with you...then your message about hating that terrible sandwich is actually relevant to me," she said.
"Are we really so concerned with posting messages to every friend or follower that we feel compelled to have to automate that process?" Shaun Lawson, a social computing professor at the University of Lincoln, asked the BBC. Perhaps we are. "The value of these networks has increased exponentially," writes Google's inventor, Ashish Bhatia. While other systems have tried to create calendars and reminders to help users remember important events on social media, this, they write, is the most personalized and able "to respond to dynamic events."
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