Now come socialbots. These automated charlatans […] have quirks, life histories and the gift of gab.
Researchers say this new breed of bots is being designed not just with greater sophistication but also with grander goals: to sway elections, to influence the stock market, to attack governments, even to flirt with people and one another […]
Christian Rudder, a co-founder and general manager of OkCupid, said that when his dating site recently bought and redesigned a smaller site, they witnessed not just a sharp decline in bots, but also a sudden 15 percent drop in use of the new site by real people. This decrease in traffic occurred, he maintains, because the flirtatious messages and automated “likes” that bots had been posting to members’ pages had imbued the former site with a false sense of intimacy and activity. “Love was in the air,” Mr. Rudder said. “Robot love.”
Mr. Rudder added that his programmers are seeking to design their own bots that will flirt with invader bots, courting them into a special room, “a purgatory of sorts,” to talk to one another rather than fooling the humans […]
But the bots are likely to venture into ours, said Tim Hwang, chief scientist at the Pacific Social Architecting Corporation, which creates bots and technologies that can shape social behavior. “Our vision is that in the near future automatons will eventually be able to rally crowds, open up bank accounts, write letters,” he said, “all through human surrogates.”"
'This is a country with a lot of rents,' says Professor Giavazzi [an economics professor at Bocconi University], sitting in his office one recent afternoon, using the economists’ term for excess profits that flow to a business because of a lack of competition. 'You need a notary public, it’s like 1,000 euros before you even open your mouth. If you’re a notary public in this country, you live like a king.'
So how does Italy keep going? Given the numbers, you expect it to be flat on its back. But when you visit, there are hardly any signs of despair, even in Biella, where hundreds of factories and warehouses have closed in the last decade. Why? One answer is the black economy, say economists. Roughly one-quarter of Italy’s G.D.P. is off the books.
Italians, notes Professor Altomonte, are among the world’s heaviest consumers of bottled water. “Do you know why? Because the water in the tap comes from the government.”
To Professor Giavazzi, the future here doesn’t look like Greece. It looks like Argentina.
“Before World War II, Argentina was rich,” he says. “Even in 1960, the country was twice as rich as Italy.” Today, he says, you can compare the per capita income of Argentina to that of Romania. “Because it didn’t grow. A country could get rich in 1900 just by producing corn and meat, but that is not true today. But it took them 100 years to realize they were becoming poor. And that is what worries me about Italy. We’re not going to starve next week. We are just going to decline, slowly, slowly, and I’m not sure what will turn that around.”