The Language of Bots

The Language of Bots

By Alyssa Allen

Language makes us uniquely human. The nuances of how and why we use certain words adds to its complex nature. While studying linguistics in college, I took a particular interest in how language shapes perception and what leads to these reactions. By analyzing things like word choice or instances of sarcasm, patterns begin to emerge that shed light on what mechanisms of the brain enable us to understand one another.

As I finished college, I knew I wanted to apply this curiosity to public relations. When I came across LaunchSquad’s large list of technology-based clients, it gave me pause. I valued linguistics as a powerful tool for critical thinking, but I had never considered using it to work with technology. I was not sure how or if my field of study would be relevant to LaunchSquad’s clients.

In my work with client LivePerson, however, I began to connect the dots between language and technology. LivePerson is a cloud based messaging company, so a large part of its utility is based on a thorough understanding of chatbots and the intricacies of robotic conversation.

Before working at LaunchSquad, I knew the bare minimum of what a chatbot was and immediately associated it with AOL’s sassy AIM bot, Smarterchild. The reality is that we have come a long way since AIM. Today, there is a strong buzz surrounding the implementation and future of what bots could do for a brand’s ability to connect with their customers. Most consumer-facing companies want in, but there is an overarching problem consistently at the forefront: bots aren’t ready. This has developed into the notion that chatbots are in their infancy, but what that really means remains to be seen.

This is where the dots truly begin to connect. When analyzing sentiment or semantics, words become variables and sentences become mathematical equation. At a basic level, for example, the sentence “I have a dog” can be interpreted in the following way:

First, the variables must be defined. If “I” = x, “a dog” = y, and “have” = x(y), then “I have a dog” becomes x | x(y). Therefore, at the core of human language lies a mathematical process that aims to find patterns that explain how language functions.

The language of chatbots is also mathematical. The difference is that it is formatted in code. Thus, instead of categorizing chatbots as infantile, perhaps it would be more accurate to claim that they are in the process of learning a second language. For anyone who has tried to learn a second language growing up, or in high school, you can understand how complicated this process can be and the patience required for progress.

Through this lens, I contributed a unique perspective to the conversation and began to dive deeper into other technological topics that may have initially seemed out of my wheelhouse. After all, storytelling is rooted in perception and conveying a message through your point of view.

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