Social media's connection to real people continues to become more and more tenuous.
Wired just covered a competition to make Twitter bots that pass as human so well that Twitter themselves can't tell the difference:
Hwang’s bots can be programmed to have different personalities at different times of the day. On midday Friday, TrazHuman is not a happy camper.
“I feel angry and guilty about it,” says TrazHuman, an artificial intelligence and baseball fan who has been a bit of a bummer to follow these past few weeks. TrazHuman is programmed to alter emotional states between bored, angry, and excited, all the while pumping out about 100 Twitter messages per day. Not surprisingly, given his negativity, TrazHuman is near the bottom of the contest’s leaderboard.
...The contest’s winner, a business school graduate bot with a “strong interest in post-modern art theory,” racked up 14 followers and 15 re-tweets or replies from humans. The followers were worth one point each. A re-tweet or a comment was worth three points. Ecartomony scored 59.
That would be a pretty weak response for a Twitter consultant, but Hwang says that the experiment — and this his his second Socialbot Contest in two years — has proved that bots can both generate followers and conversations. “We definitely see that,” he says.
But looking through Twitter profiles of the bots, there is something else at work here. Almost none of Ecartomony’s followers are real people. They’re mostly corporate Twitter types that appear to follow just about anyone who follows them.
For more than half a century, the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence has been to create a program that is indistinguishable from a human. But the things that we do on Twitter and other social media have become so concise and so robotic that maybe it no longer takes the same effort to pass as a human.
Chasing social media numbers is a highly deceptive goal. Since the numbers are easy to track, it's easy to feel like you're "winning" if you keep seeing growth. But if the faces behind these numbers aren't committed humans, the numbers don't mean anything.
The only value of a social media follower is the Customer Lifetime Value. Investing in a real fan can net you purchases on the next show, a shirt, or even a personal recommendation for your music that results in another fan. Investing in a fake fan returns nothing more than "a possible chance to deceptively lure in a new fan".
If you make an excellent album and market well, social media numbers will go up as a consequence. Music is the goal, not numbers.