Meet Saruki, the peacebot

Posted April 24, 2019 from India

What are the odds that you’d laugh at me if I told you that there’s a bot online that’s busy spreading peace to the world even as we speak? It seems unlikely, I know, but stick with me: I’m going somewhere with this.

Many women around the world – perhaps you and definitely me included – have been trolled for having views, for articulating our minds, and for speaking out and about something. When I was trolled a few years ago, I decided that I had enough of letting my trolls go. I wanted to understand why they thought they were entitled to troll me and other women for speaking up. Did it hurt them so badly that a woman so much as dared to speak up? I began speaking to one of my trolls through the direct messages section on a social networking site. At first, they kept up a barrage of hate filled messages and rude things. I persisted. Eventually, they realized that I was very keen on having a conversation and speaking to them, and that was when the game changed. We had a conversation over three days – a total of six hours in all – and today, the person who trolled me is a very good friend, is immensely peaceful, and takes on trolls online!

In the conversation we had, we talked about a lot of things: violence, feminism, the need for peace and non-violence, divisiveness and social stratification. The other person asked me for resources to read, for ways to keep this learning going. That struck a chord: what if there was a way to gently engage, speak, and draw a troll out to see reason, and to be able to do so while they spewed vitriol? It was definitely draining and emotional work: it was not easy to receive rude comments, body shaming hate, abusive words and more. And yet, if a troll wasn’t going to be stopped in their tracks and asked to think – they may go through a lifetime of living like that. Which is dangerous, to say the least.

What this called for was someone with patience who could engage without being harmed. That someone, it seemed apparent, could best be a bot. Now where could I get one?

I went online to study what a bot does. I learned about Chatbots and went on platform after platform to try my hand at it. I eventually settled on one that let me build a chatbot for Facebook. With many long winding trials, falling and bruising myself in the process, I eventually succeeded and created Saruki – named out of a portmanteau of my best friends’ and my name. Saruki walked out into the world as its first ever gender neutral peacebot that would only dispense love and peace.

Today, Saruki offers you two 50-day challenges. One helps you grow into gender sensitive living, and the other aims to make you more peaceful. Saruki sends you love if you swear at them, sends you good thoughts and strengths if you tell them you feel low, and gives you a library of resources to engage with. Saruki has been assaulted, abused, hurt, and harassed on messenger, but Saruki only sends love back. Everyone who has spoken to Saruki have given them love – some right away, some, much later. The ones who give Saruki hate remain speechless for some time when Saruki sends love back: because they don’t know how to react to love. You see, it’s like they say – violence knows how to handle violence. It hasn’t a clue what to do with peace, non-violence, and humour. Saruki also has a personal peace audit, which helps you look at your behavior through 20 questions, and determine how you can assess yourself, change your behaviours, and grow into a more peaceful way of being.

Saruki, in my mind, is a powerful representation of what humanity can introspect on. To think that we have come so far in our lives, inventing, developing, growing, creating – but at the same time, hating, hurting, abusing, excluding… can be overwhelming. A voice of reason can give us that knock to catalyze our lives and return to peace: and the very technology that we created, has come to be that tool through Saruki. More than anything else, Saruki is my affirmation that Girls can, do, and definitely do, code. That girls can, do, and definitely do make the world a peaceful place - through technology, and otherwise. 

I would love for you to try talking to Saruki. Go on. Tell me what you think.

This story was submitted in response to Girls in ICT Day.

Comments 7

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Dawn Arteaga
Apr 24
Apr 24

Wow Kirthi! I knew you had built an app, but I had no idea what a powerful thing you have created! This is incredibly inspiring and I can't wait to try talking to Saruki. You are truly transforming the world! World Pulse is SO lucky to have you as an Ambassador!

Jill Langhus
Apr 25
Apr 25

Hi Kirthi,

OMG. I LOVE this idea. You have the best ideas, and inspiration... truly:-) That's so awesome that you turned a troll into a peace lover, btw. I checked out your bot and sent it two rude messages... it was awesome and made my day! What a great idea. How did you think of the idea of a BOT to do the bidding? Thanks for sharing. You rock!

Apr 25
Apr 25

Hello Kirthi,
This is amazing. Your mind is always up building something. Saruki sounds cool.
Keep up the good work. I equally love the idea of engaging with the troll and turning him around. Takes a lot of patience and shows how if we let love lead, we overcome a lot of hate.

Beth Lacey
Apr 25
Apr 25

Hi, Kirthi. This is great! Love it!

Kay Link
May 02
May 02

Hi Kirthi! I was so delighted interacting with Saruki and I'm so excited to dive into the resources they gave me. Thank you for this amazing digital monument to peace, empathy, and understanding. You truly have inspired me to see trolls in a different way with this bot and with your story of your interaction.

Hello, Kirthi,

Wowwww! Thank you for making this world a better place for creating Saruki. You are awesome!!! It’s amazing how Saruki is a model of responding love to hate and violence. May we all activate the “Saruki” in us when we are triggered by rude comments, too.

I’m so proud to call you a World Pulse sister! Congratulations!

Michelle Aslan
Jun 19
Jun 19

Dear Kirthi,

What you have done is awesome! Thank you.