An array of standing desks cast late-afternoon shadows on the exposed brick and bean-bag chairs. Two beards, an artisanal flannel, and three ironic tees each bopped to their individually wrapped portions of streaming headphonics. Cooling fans whirred.
[Dan: sure give me a minute and ill come over]
The beards typed at each other from opposite corners of the office.
[Mike: no chats fine just gchat me when yr ready]
[Mike: i think we need to refactor the flobbernator]
[Dan: how long ythink that will take]
They devolved into technobabble. Punctuation was few and far between. Capital letters were cast to the wind.
[Mike: hey can we face2face]
[Dan: facetime?we’re in same offic dude]
[Mike: no real face to fcae]
"Uh, Mike?" Dan was standing on the other side of Mike’s screen. At a guess, he had been there for a few moments.
"Oh right. Hey, let’s grab a meeting room."
"I think we can automate some of our support calls. I built a Markov—"
"Hold on, Mike. That’s insane. We can’t have guys in Pakistan answer phone calls."
Mike smiled. “No phones. Just the chat.”
"That’s bonkers too. Their response time is terrible, what with the translation, and—"
"Dan, it’s already working."
An eyebrow raised.
"Dan, you just talked for ten minutes with my algorithm. It’s well trained on all our chatlogs. It even makes the same spelling mistakes we do!"
It was a long conversation.
They deployed in a month. During crunch times, or when the office was short-staffed, they would send chat support requests to the server in the corner. For the first few weeks they had Miko monitor the interactions in real time, but it did fine. Miko went back to QAing the site redesign.
The algorithm kept separate repositories for each person it was based on. Different knowledge areas, writing patterns, even jokes. They tried merging the data sets but the heuristics just got muddled.
It needed several hundred thousand lines of source material to work from, but then it did a pretty good impression. Artisanal Flannel got in trouble for running a copy when he was “working from home”. The algorithm couldn’t answer the phone.
Dan started keeping simulacrums of all his developers running. If they were elbows-deep in some bug, he’d bounce his ideas off their chat AI. The devs loved being freed up to really focus on their code. Dan loved being able to have meetings even when people were sick.
Dan started keeping a Dan AI running in the background. He’d ask it questions like he searched his GMail for some forgotten nugget of information. The chatbot remembered.
He started bouncing questions off his own AI. He asked himself the questions too, of course, don’t be silly, this was just a double-check, maybe he wasn’t feeling his best today. It’s just that maybe [Dan:] remembers something Dan forgot. “What would I do?” became his mental mantra. Easy. Just ask.
Ironic Tee Number 3 came in and asked what he wanted for lunch.
"Hold on," Dan said. "Let me ask."