The search for the killer bot is well underway in Silicon Valley — but it’s off to a rocky start. Microsoft’s big push into artificial intelligence began with Tay, the teen-mimicking chatbot that Twitter users turned into a crazy racist in record time. Facebook’s introduction of bot-building platform this week at its F8 developer conference went more smoothly. But early adopters have complained about the bots’ mysterious user interfaces, their aggressive messaging, and the fact they don’t seem all that much smarter than a Microsoft Office wizard from the 1990s.
As F8 wound down, we sat down with David Marcus, who leads Messenger for Facebook. Marcus, who was previously the president of PayPal, is among bots’ biggest boosters. We asked him about the opportunity he sees for chat-based interfaces — and about some of the early criticisms that threaten to derail it.