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The LinkedIn AI bot dystopia is here

One of my good friends passed away in October 2022. It was unexpected and hit me at a particularly tough time; it was the busiest time of year at my job, I’d just gotten a new boss, and management was sending signals they didn’t have plans to keep me around. I’d also recently wrapped up physical therapy on my knee, which required surgery in May 2022, which was preceded by physical therapy on my shoulder, which required surgery in Sep. 2021.

Needless to say, finding out my friend died put a scare into me. I’d had my own health problems and had been asking myself if what I was doing made me happy. To see a contemporary—someone I went to grad school with and worked with professionally—be taken so suddenly forced me to think about those questions even more.

This is all context for this: My friend’s LinkedIn profile remains active, and last week someone congratulated him on a work anniversary.

A mutual friend sent me this photo, which I’ve redacted. I didn’t know the commenter, but felt obligated to inform them that our friend had passed away more than a year ago. Then came this odd exchange:

I’m all for gallows humor—ask me about the joke that didn’t land while I was in an operating room, about to go under—but this felt tasteless, even for me.

Then it dawned on me that this commenter likely set up a script of some sort or uses an AI bot to comment on work anniversaries in their feed to boost engagement on LinkedIn. The space between my friend’s name and the exclamation mark reeks of a script.

Here we are, in 2024, automating bots on a professional networking platform to congratulate dead people on jobs they used to have, all for the sake of engagement. Perhaps I’m wrong. I’d love to be. But if I’m not, I can’t think of anything much more dystopian.

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