As the Twenty-First Century drags on, more and more aspects of our daily lives are dominated by digital gizmos, and more and more common tasks are automated. So, then, why not Wikipedia? In recent years, automated programs, also known as robots or “bots,” have demonstrated that they can sign comments left on talk pages, revert vandalism, check for copyright violations on new pages, add or remove protection templates, and archive talk pages more expeditiously, with fewer errors, and with more civility and less drama than the human editors. Should we be looking forward to the day when Wikipedia will be fully automated, where bots will trawl the net for news sources and automatically include every last tidbit of gossipy trivia about celebrities or fictional television characters, rendering Wikipedia’s human editors entirely unnecessary?
Ah, but I can hear the objections already. Can bots be programmed to be snarky and disingenuous? Will they be able to upload sexually explicit photos of themselves? I know that some of you are prepared to argue that there are some aspects of human behavior which can never be successfully duplicated by what some like to call “artificial intelligence.” And most importantly, from the standpoint of a crowd-sourced online neo-encyclopedia, can a bot push POV?* Does a bot even have a POV?
These are questions which demand answers. In order explore the topic further, we present these YouTube videos where the bots themselves grapple with the most fundamental questions about what it means to be a Wikipedian.
* [for the novice reader, to “push POV” is WikiSpeak for the practice of slanting Wikipedia articles so that they conform to one’s own set of biases, or “point of view.”]
(This blog post was originally published September 2, 2012)
Video credits: Wikipediocracy