Bot Love in the Time of Narcissism

These days everybody is talking about it. While in the past you would read about narcissism in books, nobody really wanted to be reminded of the painful experience of having been confronted with it.

Talk about narcissism is all around us…. narcissism in the corridors of power, narcissism in the media, narcissism as a mass phenomenon that can tilt electoral results.

If you, like me, have been around the block a couple of times, chance is that you will have had encounters with narcissists.

And you might be happy that this phenomenon is now finally being discussed in the open.

The interesting question is why at this point in time in history so much attention is being given to this disease and its impact on society. It cannot just be the developments in the US or the Brexit-fuelled nationalistic rumblings in the UK.

If I were still a journalist, I would be researching this. An angle I would definitely cover in my article is how technology is likely to impact narcissism.

Yes, yes…we all know about the selfies, social media tools acting as an echo chamber for cyber narcissists, etc. etc.

But what interest me is the future.

Take for example chatbots, which will soon become inseparable companions and know our most intimate details. They will check the weather for us in the morning and suggest what we should wear. They will retrieve photos of happy moments to make us feel better when our dinner dates stand us up. Bots learn from interactions; that’s how they learn how to be there for us.

So, here is my question… could a bot trained by a narcissist end up fuelling their narcissism and make them even more addicted to seeking attention? There are different ways in which this could happen. We know that narcissists hate being ignore as it affects their already fragile self-esteem. A bot could be trained by its narcissist human to constantly come up with ideas on how to attract the attention of those they are desperately trying to connect with, impress or manipulate. The bot could recommend an email drafted in a certain way or a particular kind of language which included in a message would trigger certain emotions in the receiver and make them reply to the narcissist. Impossible? Who knows…

Now, let’s look at victims of narcissism for a second.

What makes them so vulnerable is the fact that this disorder is often difficult to detect. It might take a couple of exchanges before tell-tale signs start popping up.

So, could cognitive tone analysis help uncover narcissistic behaviour early on and protect potential victims?

We know that cognitive tone analysers can detect emotions, social tendencies and writing styles. Could they be trained to recognise narcissism’s symptoms like a sense of superiority, craving admiration or lacking empathy? Imagine the difference this would have made in the lives of women who had to run for their safety and that of their children after enduring a narcissistic attack. Earlier this month, I spent International Women’s Day dreaming about this and the huge potential of technology.

As always with technology, it’s what humans chose to do with it. Let’s all focus on the latter example and how to make it real.


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