How many of your "friends" on Facebook and Twitter are real? According to a new report by research firm Gartner, one in every ten of your online friends will be nonhuman by 2015.

That's not to say we'll be tweeting with zombies or playing FarmVille with ET. Gartner predicts the coming of "social bots"—automated tools used by brands and organizations to engage consumers.


"Efforts to systematize and automate social engagement will result in the rise of social bots—automated software agents that can handle, to varying degrees, interaction with communities of users in a manner personalized to each individual," the report reads.

Gartner says that bots will become so common that an estimated 10% of our friends may be nonhuman. According to AllFacebook, the average user could soon have as many as 500 friends online—which means around 50 of them will not actually exist if Gartner's estimate is correct.

Just remember to resist pokes from HAL 9000.


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