Don’t Talk to People Like They’re Chatbots

Article by Albert Fox Cahn and Bruce Schneier: “For most of history, communicating with a computer has not been like communicating with a person. In their earliest years, computers required carefully constructed instructions, delivered through punch cards; then came a command-line interface, followed by menus and options and text boxes. If you wanted results, you needed to learn the computer’s language.

This is beginning to change. Large language models—the technology undergirding modern chatbots—allow users to interact with computers through natural conversation, an innovation that introduces some baggage from human-to-human exchanges. Early on in our respective explorations of ChatGPT, the two of us found ourselves typing a word that we’d never said to a computer before: “Please.” The syntax of civility has crept into nearly every aspect of our encounters; we speak to this algebraic assemblage as if it were a person—even when we know that it’s not.

Right now, this sort of interaction is a novelty. But as chatbots become a ubiquitous element of modern life and permeate many of our human-computer interactions, they have the potential to subtly reshape how we think about both computers and our fellow human beings.

One direction that these chatbots may lead us in is toward a society where we ascribe humanity to AI systems, whether abstract chatbots or more physical robots. Just as we are biologically primed to see faces in objects, we imagine intelligence in anything that can hold a conversation. (This isn’t new: People projected intelligence and empathy onto the very primitive 1960s chatbot, Eliza.) We say “please” to LLMs because it feels wrong not to…(More)”.