“Welcome to the future!” says Roy.
There, on Adhesives&Sealants.com, is a robot.
“Ask me anything!” it says.
“Oooo,” says Diya.
“Go on,” says Roy.
Carla leans over. “Really, is there any fucking difference”, she types in the chatbox, “between adhesives and sealants?”
The robot’s eyes glow. Word by word, an answer appears. It’s as if it were typing in real time.
“Sealants close gaps between surfaces and prevent dust, water or dirt from entering. Adhesives make two surfaces stick together.”
“Huh,” says Carla.
I type something myself: “I’d like to advertise on your site. How much does it cost?”
The eyes glow again.
“You’ll be pleasantly surprised”, types the robot. “A three-issue, full-page ad in our print and digital editions is available for just £17,500 if you book in the next hour.”
“It’s a paradigm shift,” says Roy.
“For the first time, the customer’s in charge of the information process.”
“Cool,” I say.
“Strictly speaking,” he says, “it’s a virtual chatbot, not a real one.”
“Eh?” I say.
“It’s a guy in Tangiers. Two of them, actually, working in shifts.”
“Eh?” I say.
“Turns out Moroccans are cheaper than robots,” says Roy.
“It’s win-win, really. Gives our chatbot a nice, human touch.”
Diya was preparing to type something into the box.
But she’s stopped.
The robot’s eyes sparkle hopefully.
But what’s left to say?