Echoborgs

An echoborg is a person whose speech (and in some cases, actions) are determined wholly or in part by artificial intelligence.

(Credit: Rik Lander and the I am Echoborg team)

 

Background

Professor Alex Gillespie and I coined the term “echoborg” in 2014 while designing experiments wherein a person held an unscripted conversation with someone, in-person and face-to-face, who was simply repeating words they covertly received from an artificial conversational agent (e.g., a chat bot program).

Why would we explore such a scenario? In short, we wanted understand how people perceive computer-generated communication under conditions wherein they fully believe themselves to be interacting with the words of a fellow human being. With the slightest bit of deception, an echoborg interaction creates and maintains the illusion that the person with whom one is interacting is an individual self-authoring spontaneous speech, as occurs in ordinary conversation.

The concept has since been adapted into an immersive, participatory art performance by interactive dramatist Rik Lander and shown across the UK and United States. The performance explores the possible future relations between humans and intelligent machines, and the social psychological consequences of dependence upon AI.

Publications

Corti, K., & Gillespie, A. (2015). A truly human interface: interacting face-to-face with someone whose words are determined by a computer program. Frontiers in Psychology.

Corti, K., & Gillespie, A. (2015). Co-constructing intersubjectivity with artificial conversational agents: people are more likely to initiate repairs of misunderstandings with agents represented as human. Computers in Human Behavior.

Gillespie, K., & Corti, K. (2016). The body that speaks: recombining bodies and speech sources in unscripted face-to-face communication. Frontiers in Psychology.

UX Researcher | Social Psychologist | Data Scientist

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