Chatbot Takes on Global Warming Deniers
“Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.”
Faced with a blizzard of climate denialist talking points, Nigel Leck took Oscar Wilde’s dictum to heart and went out and did something.
He wrote a script.
Every five minutes the “chatbot” AI_ AGW checks Twitter for a series of stock phrases, the global warming talking points that get repeated over and over and over, long after they’ve been debunked. And then it engages, replying with a simple, pithy, refutation, with links to actual scientific sources. At first they were his own responses, but he’s been adding to the database.
Like other chatbots, lots of people on the receiving end of its tweets have no idea they’re not conversing with a real human being. Some of them have arguments with the chatbot spanning dozens of tweets and many days, says Leck. That’s in part because AI_AGW is smart enough to run through a list of different canned responses when an interlocutor continues to throw the same arguments at it. Leck has even programmed it to debate such esoteric topics as religion – which is where the debates humans have with the bot often wind up.
“If [the chatbot] actually argues them into a corner, it tends to be two crowds out there,” says Leck. “There’s the guns and God crowd, and their parting shot will be ‘God created it that way’ or something like that. I don’t know how you answer that.”
But alas, AI_AGW itself is lacking in the humor department. The only time the system breaks down: The chatbot can’t differentiate between stupidity and sarcasm.