A while back I wrote about the slowly developing technology of "sex dolls" and some of the implications of these new technologies. One of the points I focused on is that old chestnut of prostitutes and courtesans, actual physical sex is great but good conversation may even be more important for many customers.
Well, look at the Cornell CleverBot Project. They are taking the interesting approach of having a chat engine respond not with logically derived comments but simply with the phrases it has "heard" before as responses to what has just been said to them. This seems like it would sound pretty random. And it kinda does. But not entirely random. More like free-ranging. Stimulating, actually. One person ended up "talking" to this software for eleven hours. ELEVEN HOURS!!! Look at what happens when two of these are set up to talk to each other.
Now, as such, this technology is just yet another Eliza. One more mostly contentless filling of time for people who mostly just want to hear something.
But picture this as a subtle weighting of an otherwise content-directed speech engine.
In other words, picture software that, by and large, logically analyzes what you've just said and what has been said before, adds on what it already knows about you, and then prepares several viable responses. This includes, as I noted in the previous piece watching your pupil response, your skin temperature, and every other indicator it can get of your emotional state. Are you watching it? Is your attention wandering? This data doesn't need to be perfect. Just better than random. Just enough to give it a sense of what matters to you. What bores you. What excites you.
Then picture having the cleverbot engine running in parallel and using the responses that generates to shift the weighting the various viable responses that the logic-based system generated. Now add a bit of a randomizer to ensure that being asked the same question won't always generate the same, word for word, response and you've got one very enticing conversationalist.
One that, by the way, will do far better at holding your attention.
At keeping you talking.
And telling it more about you.
Which causes it to learn more about you.
Which them makes it an even more compelling conversationalist.
And, oh by the way, gives it more data about you to be harvested by the owners of that plastic companion.
Oh, yeah, We've got scary sh*t headed our way.
And so very seductive.