The behemoth that is known as Facebook launched an interesting new adventure into the world last week, for us to engage with or not. On the back of the spectacular performance of the Facebook Messenger App (fastest growing app in the US in 2015), Mark Zuckerberg and friends opened up the Messenger platform to be taken over by the world of bots. They’re hoping that human beings will be willing to ask a bot, on the other end of Messenger, for something they need instead of a human being.
Primarily, bots will let you access services and stores by chatting instead of clicking. Want to get the news? Just tell a bot to feed you everything relevant to your interests in cross-site request forgeries and Seattle fetish events. Want to book a hotel room? The Hotels.com bot will happily discuss it with you for a few seconds and then recommend some options that fit your criteria. Sometimes bots will hand you off to a human who can answer questions about your clothing purchase that are too nuanced for a piece of software to tackle.
Incredible Job Losses / Savings
One irony to come from this announcement is that Zuckerberg, who has had a fairly loud and large development agenda for the developing world, in unleashing these Messenger bots, will lead to plenty of job losses in the very countries he’d like to assist.
Of course it sounds exciting, because it is exciting technology, and it’s freeking fantabulous if you run a company with a large call centre head count. Imagine the cost savings you’ll be able to extract by replacing your people with intelligent Messenger bots?
According to a Mail & Guardian article from 2013, South Africa employed 210 000 people in call centres. Imagine Messenger and their bots could replace 50% of those workers, and the savings / unemployment that would amount to?
People in call centres are already on the path to redundancy. It started before Zuckerberg’s announcement. Companies like KomBea have already started the transition of people out and machines in. But I’ll save that for the next post 🙂