How to Talk with a Robot

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Robots are a very clever idea. Talking with one helps you sharpen your perception. If you can’t access the robot hotel pictured at Japan’s Henn Na Hotel, try CleverBot ( It’s an interactive website that allows you to converse with a robot. Most of us communicate with artificial intelligences many times a day – in our phones, cars, and an increasing number of devices. Being extra observant of the reactions you get can help you sharpen your perceptions of the world around you.
Talking with a robot you notice:
1. Every word is parsed and usually taken literally.
2. Robots make connections to their programming that often don’t make sense to humans.
3. Where the programming of responses is limited such as warnings that your car needs attention, the communication is valuable.
Given this, it’s a chance to see how you are perceived at the most basic linguistic level. So now it’s fun to watch the world around you as if they’re reacting at the most basic level. Do you ever try to monitor if the person you’re speaking with actually relates what he or she says to what you’ve just said?
Next time you’re in a meeting, notice how many comments follow on the prior one. Research shows that fewer than half do. Many times we’re just waiting for the person speaking to stop so we can get our point in.
So, when you talk with a robot, be direct in your language and listen carefully to responses. It’s a bit like talking with a child. Validate answers against the other information you have. For example, if your dashboard tells you the right front tire needs air, also have a gauge handy to test the pressure. And, not bad advice when you’re talking with humans – think about what you’re saying and how it will be received, and listen carefully to the response. Just another place to be more observant.

by Dr Sabra Brock, co-founder of Idea Spies

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