2012-10-19, Nerijus Celkonas

War of the machines – the beginning

 War of the machines – the beginning

The first thought that comes to mind after hearing this heading is, of course, James Cameron’s movie “The Terminator”. Yes, we humans imagine future changes in technology. Unfortunately, physical technologies aren’t evolving as quickly as the IT technologies and first wars of the machines have already started (computer or server). 

Primal rudiments were the business automation processes – it’s when machines are used to service huge amounts of consumers. We know them and face those processes every day: computer’s voice telling us about our late phone bill payments, automated marketing letters, at sorting warehouses shipments are scanned by robots and this information is pictured automatically during package tracking.

In client service most of big companies have joined FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) with request forms and after putting in your request, first you’re offered a computer-generated response. Navigation systems in cars don’t surprise anyone anymore. But all of this is machine to human communication. The newest public service of the field is “Siri” (Apple’s AI prototype).

What awaits us when machines start communicating among themselves?

Computers joined into a global network (that we call the Internet) make up a physical network of the machines, but we still don’t notice that an interconnected software network is a far more powerful weapon and when those machine wars do actually start (or has already done so) it will happen precisely in this context.

Software (program) network is made up of different programs that run 24/7 on servers and interconnected links that are called API.

An application programming interface (API) is a specification intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other.

In other words, those are program instructions on what answer should it give when another programs communicate with it.

Big companies and portals have special developer centers where external developers can interact with other programs after tuning their links (API). It‘s a win-win solution for both parties. Usually, both parties receive the benefit of faster development, for example, Facebook and Zynga, Ticketmaster, Spotify ar Airbnb, PayPal and Ebay or most of payment e-commerce portals that use API.

Another field that’s becoming more and more popular is marketing. As we all know, marketing is quite expensive and hard-to-measure and it’s only natural that business is trying to automate it. We’ve already got used to Captcha questions: “are you human?”. Click Farms that click on ads in order to create an illusion of the ad actually being read by someone are also automated. Further more consumers also use other programs to systemize incoming data flow or answer to automated offers (the standard “auto respond” function of email). When you join a profile in any of the social networks or you’re joined by someone, it doesn’t mean that that profile belongs to a real person and we all understand that already, but when we receive a message or even an answer to our messages, we can’t always understand that it’s the computer on the other side that’s talking with us.  Facebook Automatic Likes Increaser BOT , tweetdeck, tweetlater, tweetadder, bulkfans, get-likes, linkedinautobot, linkedinbot – that’s only the beginning of programs that not only interact with consumers, but also among themselves. Link two different social networks accounts to different Bots and you’ll have so much fun seeing how it works and even more fun watching how real people interact with computer without even realizing that. @Trackgirl is one nice example of this phenomenon.

News and social portals, comments or special offers and customer service have been the work of machines for some time now and we can only imagine what part of such content is created for consumers by machines and what part for machines by machines.

When Bots (automated programs) are improving, that is, imitating human behavior better and better, portal creators will have hard times recognizing them and securing their commercial value.

Software wars (and we’re not even talking about criminal hacker attacks) is the present and we’ll soon watch real cyber wars and “cyber-combat” troops hired by large portals in this war. So till self-assembling nano bots become reality, let’s enjoy these software wars.

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