Posted by George Morrison

Talking to Bots                 Word on the Week          21st January 2023.

Have you ever wondered, when making a business phone call these days, if the person at the other end of the line is a person at all?  Welcome to the world of ‘bots’.

Which brings us to “what on earth is a bot?”   It’s an abbreviation for the word robot!   We need to get used to the language as bots are cropping up everywhere.   In fact, that square printed next to where you sign a document and has printed, rather plaintively, “I am not a bot” required you to put your X in the box to prove you are not a bot!

Bots are made with computer programmes designed to copy some human activities.    These tasks can include conversing with a human — which attempts to mimic human behaviours — or gathering content from other websites.   

The programming dictates what intelligence is gathered and how it is put to use.   The skills are improving all the time.   It will soon be possible for the bot to replace repetitive jobs.   It has transformed the old ‘enquiries desk’ in modern companies having been equipped with the answers to every likely question.

Organizations or individuals have to train their bots to recognise ‘bad bots’ or scammers!   These are known as malware which attacks the workings of the bot or as ransomware.    The latter can sabotage a network of bots and demand a ransom to correct the damage.   

There appears to be a well-educated bot called ChatGPT.    It can produce a script around the items you speak into it.   This bot, having the appropriate program, would work wonders for kids struggling with essay writing!

With all this AI (artificial intelligence) around, word of it is bound to reach the churches.   Those with repetitive liturgies are easily catered for with seasonal variations to match the liturgical year cycle.    For Reformed churches the bible would need to be loaded and the congregation decide on whether or not to have a three-point sermon this Sunday!

Perish the thought!   Let’s keep the bots out of the Church!    Don’t even have them on the door!    The intelligence should not be artificial but God-given (2 Chronicles Chapter 1 verse 10).

The preacher is charged to ‘preach the Word’ when he feels like it and when he doesn’t feel like it, correct, rebuke and encourage and, with God’s help, may it be so till the Lord’s return.  (2 Timothy Chapter 4 verse 2).