Monday, July 23, 2012

Social Media is Passing the Turing Test

What happens when we can't tell if it is real or Memorex?

In this age of fragmentation we often use an adjective to qualify what segment we're talking about.   To take a few - print media, broadcast media, online media and social media - it is the adjective that helps us understand the goals, functions, cost models and conversion expectations.

But if we drop the adjective, we're simply left with 'media' - the paid placement of a message.   And in the digital era it is very easy to blur the distinction.   While 'social' started out as focused on human interactions, the technical underpinnings allow for much more.   In a recent article on Fortune about tweetbots, Ryan Holmes of HootSuite suggests a bit of moderation along the path to automation.   We know that targeting can go too far, but so can the creation of content and social posts.

Memorex Ad
And unlike like the Memorex ad it does matter whether it is real or just technology. Anytime we can write down the rules, we can automate the process.  This is where a lot of productivity gains come from.  And sorting thru the bizillion conversations to find the useful comments is clearly ripe for a technology fix.  And so is the scheduling side of things.

Back in the 1950's Alan Turing thought thru whether digital machines could imitate humans well enough to fool the panel.   This was an easier task than answering the question 'can machines think?'   The result is known as the Turing Test.

When it comes to social media we are getting close to passing that test - the auto-generated tweets and posts that pass as human.   While the advantage of scale is obvious care should be taken in how far we go down this path.

Tweetbots and the like could produce some unintended consequences.
  1. Social media will become just like TV media - lots of eyeballs but conversations are filtered
  2. People will move toward less business-centric avenues to connect.
  3. As the ability to connect becomes pervasive in newer technology, there won't be a need for a separate platform.
Maybe we should have stuck with the original moniker:  Social Technology. 

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