AI, “Bots” and related technologies can do a lot to help improve our effectiveness and efficiency. The technology enables us to unload mundane tasks, both making us more effective and efficient.
And, of course, there are those that enable the users to do terrible things. We hear reports, almost daily, of concerted efforts to exploit social and other networks with these bots.
Recently, I’ve become a victim of the outreach of a company that provides this technology. My “mistake” was belonging to LinkedIn.
On a daily basis, I’ve been getting LinkedIn Invitations from different “people.” All have the same text, sometimes I will get several invitations from different people, at the same time.
At first I thought these were from a poorly executed marketing program. I ignored them. After several days of seeing the same invitations, recognizing this was the start of an endless pattern, I went to the company’s web site.
Turns out they are a bot company.
Curious, I spent some time wandering their website. They show a number of “helpful” examples on how to leverage bots. They have dozens of “helpful” services for sales and marketing. They don’t just automate mundane tasks to improve personal productivity. They automate the mundane tasks of harassing millions of people.
One of their “helpful” examples is automating LinkedIn Invitations. They show a video that enables you to send any number of invitations automatically.
Naturally, they show dozens of other examples of having bots completely take over sales and marketing functions.
This company is using it’s own technology to flood sites like LinkedIn, as well as our email inbox’s with crap. Inevitably, through their coaching, their customers will be doing the same thing. All these smart marketers and lazy sales people will leverage these technologies to extend their outreach. Their addiction to volume and velocity, rather than meaning, will be fed by the abilities of bots to take over their work.
Interestingly, the company doesn’t provide any caution on “best practice,” or “good use.” They seem proud of their ability to scale all activities to millions–of course the prices they charge are exorbitant, so the more people use their services, the greater their revenue.
Every day, we see horrible applications of automation. Bot technologies will accelerate the ability to destroy these channels and adversely impact all of us who attempt to use them legitimately.
Ironically, I think these companies will actually seed their own destruction. Ultimately, Face To Face will become our only “trusted” connection and engagement channel, at least for initial contacts.
Having co-founded an AI technology company, I have had a peek at the tremendous power of these technologies. Unfortunately, I suspect the bad and, perhaps, unethical applications of these technologies will abound–particularly in sales and marketing, where the temptation is too great.
It’s a sad statement about the state of our profession and our societies.
Afterword: I reported the issue to LinkedIn. I got into a very pleasant chat with “Marsha.” I suspect “Marsha” may be a bot……. Sigh…….