on who/what I was talking to. Take a look, gentle readers, and judge for yourselves. (Names have been altered to protect the people and bots involved.)
Anoymous says: hey are you there?
PERSON OF CONSEQUENCE:Yeah. How’s it going?
A: I just took an IQ quiz.
PERSON:And the result…?
A: I was better than I am! I scored 111
PERSON:That’s… good, right? Or is it a drop? I’m having a little trouble sorting out the verb tenses there.
A: You got see if you can do better than me, go to http:---OMIT----.
PERSON:Ok… but first, prove you’re not a spambot. Compare Battlestar to Stargate.
A: im not a bot silly, its me
PERSON:I’m not hearing a comparison, here, Ms. *last name omitted*.
A: Im sure you cant haha.
PERSON:Seriously though, the link’s not working. So beyond taking rampant IQ tests, how are you doing?
A: good. You?
PERSON: good ‘nuff. Everything’s kind of on hold school wise until classes start in September, so I’ve been enjoying a protracted vacation. Are you working right now, or…?
A: Take it now while im in the shower and tell me your score later
PERSON:I’m telling you, the link isn’t working, and a google search of the address makes me about 90% sure you’re a bot, so unless you can tell me what class we met in within the next 30 seconds, we’re pretty much done here.
A: Are you kidding? Its me and not some bot, stop this
PERSON: Hmmm. Let’s try a trigger word exercise. I like spam on my toast.
PERSON:Viruses taste like veal.
A: lol no its me.
PERSON: …I’m gonna just assume it’s NOT you. And apologize profusely later if I’m wrong. Bye.
*END OF CONVERSATION AND/OR FRIENDSHIP*
That's PROBABLY a bot, right? It doesn't answer directly any personal questions, and it's pushing the site long beyond what's conversationally acceptable. At the same time, if it is a bot, whoever programmed it knows what they're doing--the replies to my flippant accusations are light and simple, and the replies to the more direct accusation is mildly hurt. Which would be exactly how the friend in question would react. Or... is it?
Equally interesting is my own reaction. I twig on to something being "off" right away, but I'm just as eager to shoot the electronic breeze. I remember reading a sci-fi series (Tad Williams' Otherland, I think) wherein the biggest social norm you could violate on the future Internet is to accuse someone falsely of being a bot instead of a person. I think we're already there, in a way. The line between human interaction and computer interaction is getting fuzzier, but the idea that a person can be replaced by a computer is still incredibly threatening, to the point where implying that any person's conversation could be replaced by a machine is insulting. Also note that my trigger word sentences both involve eating food, an action that definitely separates the organic from the digital other.
This issue raises a very interesting line of discussion, namely, the issues of identity and security in online interactions. How much of a person's self can be conveyed online? How much can replaced by a simple program? What is a "real" conversation? Do you know everyone you talk to online to be able to tell the difference? But really, it all boils down to one question: was I talking to a bot, or am I descending into endless pit of paranoia and suspicion? (Or is that just what you want me to think?) Weigh in with your opinion!
And remember, the best way to convince someone you're real while on the Internet is to give them as much of your personal information as possible, as quickly as possible.
Person of Consequence
*UPDATE: I've contacted the friend in question on Facebook, and she's verified that it was a bot. So it's nice to know for sure. Unless... the bot's gotten to facebook too...