An anonymous reader writes: Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are all pursuing AI-powered chatbots — an intersection between several popular technologies: personal assistant software, search engines, machine learning, and social tools. Right now, while they're still building these chatbots, developers are cheating a bit. Facebook is using real humans to answer questions the AI can't. Google answers tough questions from a database populated with movie dialog. Microsoft scans social media to find the most popular answer, and offers that to inquisitive users. But software becoming conversational comes with hazards: "Because human beings are complex creatures plagued by cognitive biases, irrational thinking and emotional needs, the line between messaging with a friend and messaging with AI will be fine to nonexistent for some people." It sounds like an Asimov-era sci-fi trope, but it's already happening in China.