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I keep getting job ads, asking if I’d like to help train AI writers in other countries. Usually in languages that I have never studied.  Exotic places — well, to be fair,  anything outside of New England is exotic to me, because I have not traveled in so long.

Part of me is intrigued.  What would it be like to train a Swedish chatbot, without knowing Swedish, or anything about Swedish idioms? The only Swedish idiom I know is ‘att glida in på en räkmacka‘, (and I have no idea of how to pronounce it), because Lucy told me about it.  Literally, it means ‘to slide in on a shrimp sandwich’, referring to a person who didn’t have to work to get where they are.

I am not ‘att glida in på en räkmacka’, If anything, I am the opposite of that. I have been working since before the age of 12, starting full-time employment the September after I graduated from college.  So when I got this job posting I thought, “How would this work?”

I pictured all different kinds of things in my mind, and finally thought I would probably end up answering questions for a chatbot and the chatbot would record my responses into its giant database of answers. I am probably wrong about that, but as a writer who has done almost every kind of freelance writing gig there is, I was curious.  How are chatbots trained?

So, I went to the Internet to find out, and discovered that you can become an AI trainer.  You can attend an online program and get a certificate as a chatbot trainer.  I also found that one of the ways that chatbots are trained is the same way human writers are trained:  through manual writing.

I do not pretend to understand what constitutes ‘manual writing’ for a chatbot.  Is that the writing of manuals, or is that just writing?  Because writing, like most things, is something that you learn by doing. And I have to ask what writer would take a job training a bot to replace herself? 

Being a writer is difficult enough:  why would someone want to train their future replacement?  I am probably being short-sighted.  I could take the view that most writers are going to be replaced anyway, so why not make some money off it?  

I am sure that this is a question that people have been asking themselves since the beginning of the Industrial Age.  When the Luddites were destroying textile machinery, I am sure some weavers were quietly advising the new machine makers on the finer points of weaving — and were paid for it.  One could argue that they were merely being pragmatic.

I do not pretend to know all the ramifications of chatbots.  They are the tip of the iceberg that is AI, and on my worst days, I feel as if I am on the Titanic.  Why is it so necessary to automate everything? And, why does everything need to be automated?  

I work in human services, so I spend a lot of time talking to actual people.  When I receive phone messages, and call people back, the most common response is an effusive “Thank you so much for returning my call.”   And I understand, because so many businesses simply ignore calls.   

So I ask myself, wouldnt’t a responsive chatbot be better than nothing?  Should I try training one? After

all, I could help make interactions with on-line chatbots less annoying, and since chatbots will be around far longer than June Lemen, wouldn’t that be a great thing to do?  

Maybe.  But someone else can do it.