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The Green Life: A Tweeting Robot Annoys Climate-Change Skeptics

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November 12, 2010

A Tweeting Robot Annoys Climate-Change Skeptics

Friendly Robot Debate Arguing what you perceive to be obvious can be exhausting. For some, this is the case  when debating whether human activities influence climate change. But a conversation between opposing sides is necessary. That's why a new Twitter chatbot, known as AI_AGW, is willing to repeat the monotonous arguments condemning greenhouse gasses. 

The chatbot, an automated program that mimics human conversation, scans Twitter every five minutes for tweets that contain either a familiar pattern of language or a scientifically debunked statement in argument against human-caused global warming.

For example: If one were to tweet that the planet today is actually "carbon-starved" because there was much more carbon in the atmosphere during the time of the dinosaurs, AI_AGW might respond with a link to the aforementioned twitterer, a counter argument, and a link to scientific evidence debunking the skeptic's statement.

Perhaps unintentionally, the new chatbot has been the chafing the most zealous, 30-tweets-per-day "climate change is a hoax" crusaders, who, due to the chatbot's human-like rhetoric, often believe that they're engaged in a debate with a real person. The chatbot's almost immediate responses, including links to NASA and the works of Stephen Hawking, surely only add to their frustration.

Nigel Leck, whose brainchild the chatbot is, has run into several problems with its execution, including its difficulty in comprehending false positives. As a result, many tweets using sarcasm to agree with the chatbot's argument get called out by AI_AGW, causing indignation.

Of course, no robot is perfect. Leck's aim is not to create HAL-9000, but rather to offer users an untiring agent in the fight against anti-science Twitterbaters, and to provide links to the scientific research that could help sway the 48 percent of Americans who aren't convinced that climate change is real.

To meet the friendly robot and decide for yourself, check out AI_AGW's page. Then reopen the conversation with a real human.

--Ronny Smith

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