IBM-WatsonWhen you send an email to someone, you would assume that a human being would read it and reply you, automated replies not withholding. However it seems that over at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a computer science professor by the name of Ashok Goel decided to fool his students with a robot teaching assistant.

This was possible thanks to the use of IBM’s Watson system, in which the robot (named Jill Watson) would reply to the emails of students, answering their questions, reminding them of due dates for assignments, and also posting questions in the middle of the week to help spark discussions amongst students, something that you might expect from a human teaching assistant.

Given that students tend to post as many as 10,000 messages per semester, Professor Goel says that recruiting a robot TA made sense as a regular human TA would be bogged down by the workload, meaning that they would not be as efficient in replying students. Most students did not think twice about the responses they were getting, although some did have their suspicions but never actually confirmed it.

To be fair, AI has been used in emails, particularly that of Google’s Gmail platform where users can choose from a variety of quick response suggestions based on the contents of the email. Also over in China, a robot will be used to take the country’s national college entrance exam. If you weren’t afraid of the robot uprising, maybe you should start getting worried.

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