Teaching Chatbots to Do the Right Thing

June 13, 2019

Along with the great opportunity that AI provides comes great responsibility. As we develop and train algorithms, Natural Language Processing and other forms of AI that chatbots and other applications use to augment – or in some instances, replace – the role of humans, we have a responsibility to make sure that we are creating ethical human stand-ins and that we are not inadvertently imbuing them with our own biases.

This was a topic I wrote about in a recent article on Forbes.com, “Expanding on Asimov’s Laws to Create Responsible Chatbots.” Creating ethical, responsible chatbots and other smart apps requires taking a very thoughtful approach to AI development. Part of that includes hiring a diverse team of experts involved in the development, training and maintenance of these programs, enabling these programs to be more sensitive to – and reflect and be respectful of – different cultures and ways of thinking. In addition to data scientists and data engineers, the team should include natural language experts, who can provide chatbot responses that are polite, correct and appropriate, and reflect the normal flow of conversation. In order for chatbots to respond accurately, programs must be built from the ground up in the language that they will be used. This will avoid any inadvertent errors or insensitivities that could result from poor translations. Additionally, companies need to continually monitor these programs to make sure they are not learning inappropriate language and other wrong things in the course of conversing with humans.

It’s critical that organizations are transparent when it comes to AI programs. While it may not always be obvious if someone is chatting with a bot online, it’s the company’s responsibility to inform users that they are conversing with software and not a human. And, companies should recognize that it’s not always appropriate to use chatbots. There are sensitive conversations, for example, such as discussing medical diagnoses, when people should speak with humans instead of chatbots.

Chatbots enable companies to the increase customer experience by being more attentive and responsive to their customers’ needs. By being respectful of these customers, treating them ethically and creating chatbots that will add to rather than detract from their experience, companies will be able to effectively harness the power and value that these AI programs offer.

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