When chat bots move to the countryside  ?

Your town is not going to spend another minute in the past. Every minute of the rest of your town’s existence will be spent in the future. What are you doing to get ready? I want to start a series of future-challenging questions, so you can kick off some future-challenging conversations in your town. 

Let’s look at one technology that’s changing right now: conversational interface. What I mean is, you can now just talk to a computer and get a (more or less) useful answer. 

(Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist a gif there.) 

Computers, websites and apps have long used the operational interface. You open a site or an app, you operate it by typing, clicking or tapping. 

Conversational interfaces are conversational, and they are here now.

  • You can call a company and get what you needed just by talking to an automated system. That’s how I reported our last power outage.
  • You can ask your phone’s built-in assistant to remind you when it’s time to leave, or to find you a gas station in a big city.
  • Voice-controlled home assistants obey your requests to play music, adjust your thermostat or turn on the lights.
  • You can get your airplane ticket by chatting with an airline bot through Facebook Messenger, entirely conversational and entirely automated.

All true right now. Imagine what’s coming in the next 5 years, or next 50 years. 

What does it mean to your town?

  • If call centers were a big part of your local economic development strategy, you’ll realize this might mean fewer call centers, as more of those tasks formerly handled by human operators are performed by automated bots.
  • It might mean more intense competition for local dollars, as people find easier, more automated ways to buy what they need.
  • It might mean better service and better quality of life for rural people, like my power outage example.
  • It might mean rural seniors can live independently longer, with conversational tools helping them through tasks that are a struggle today. 

There is no way to predict all the possible outcomes or to prepare for them all. The only way to get ready for the future is to make your town more open to new ideas. That’s where the solutions are going to come from: new ideas.

How do you make your town more open to new ideas? You generate more participation by more people (Gather Your Crowd), you create stronger community ties (Build Connections) and you encourage more meaningful participation by everyone (Take Small Steps). Idea Friendly means preparing your town for the future.

Here’s your homework: have this conversation with someone this week. When you do, hit reply. I’d love to hear how it goes. 
Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –  Deb and I went to the Rural Creative Placemaking Summit, and we came away talking about the need to Build Connections. Because you’re already our friend, you can download the PDF checklist here