Will robots destroy human language?

As consumers interact with AI like Alexa, Siri and Cortana – not to mention brand chatbots – more and more, human language will change. That was the topic of conversation at a recent panel during Social Media Week that asked in part whether technology will corrupt language.

AI is also changing our relationship with technology, particularly among children who grow up with voice-enabled devices, and so the key for brands and marketers may very well be figuring out how to give robots more human-like speech, as well as to make them more empathetic. But that may also be easier said than done.

History repeats itself

Erin McKean, founder of online English dictionary Wordnik, noted the anxiety about technology changing language is nothing new. Greek philosopher Plato was against people writing things down because he thought it would ruin our memories, for example. Since then, virtually every innovation since – the printing press, radio, the telegraph, TV, movies and the internet – have all been accused of killing language, according to McKean.

“The telegraph is a great example with modern parallels,” added Ben Zimmer, language columnist for the Wall Street Journal. “[Philosopher and poet Henry David] Thoreau thought it would help us communicate more quickly, but we’d have nothing to say. It stripped down language, causing language to be used in a very functional way.”

Read more: The Drum

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