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Bot or Not?

A well-traveled branch of futuristic fiction explores worlds in which artificial creatures—the robots—live among us, sometimes even indistinguishable from us. This has been going for almost a century now. Stepford wives. Androids dreaming of electric sheep. (Next, Ex Machina?)

robot-cello_jpg_600x1184_q85

Robot & bassist, New York World’s Fair 1939

 

Well, here they come. It’s understood now that, beside what we call the “real world,” we inhabit a variety of virtual worlds. Take Twitter. Or the Twitterverse. Twittersphere. You may think it’s a stretch to call this a “world,” but in many ways it has become a toy universe, populated by millions, most of whom resemble humans and may even, in their day jobs, be humans. But increasing numbers of Twitterers don’t even pretend to be human. Or worse, do pretend, when they are actually bots. “Bot” is of course short for robot. And bots are very, very tiny, skeletal, incapable robots—usually little more than a few crude lines of computer code. The scary thing is how easily we can be fooled.

More here, at the New York Review Blog.

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