My first date with Eliza

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Turing test. Alan Turing was an English mathematician, cryptanalyst, and all-round geek. He was one of the pioneers of early computing, and is often regarded as the father of modern computer science. He was such a geek, in fact, that he once wrote a computer chess game, and then, because no computer existed at the time which was powerful enough to run it, he had to simulate a computer to run the game – doing all the calculations himself!

Anyway, while he was deputy director of the University of Manchester computing laboratory, he came up with the theory for which he is probably most famous – The Turing Test. This is a test for artificial intelligence in which a person sits at a terminal and ‘converses’ via text with a computer or a human being. If the person believes they’re chatting to a human being, when it is in fact a computer, then the computer can be said to be intelligent.

There are many arguments against the Turing Test being a valid test for intelligence, not least the fact that we find it difficult even defining what intelligence is, or whether there may be other manifestations of intelligence quite different to that exhibited (occasionally) by humans, but the Turing Test is still one which people strive to beat, mainly because it’s such a huge milestone on the path of human-computer interaction.

It occurred to me that such huge advances have been made in computing in the 58 years since Turing set his test, that people must be getting pretty close to beating it. There must be artificial intelligences in existence which can fool a lot of people. It also occurred to me that the internet would be the perfect place to run these programs, since the set-up of the Turing Test – communicating in text via a terminal – is something to which we have become accustomed. So, bored one day, I set out to have my first real conversation with a machine.

The first AI program I stumbled on was Eliza. Now Eliza was first created in 1966, so is not really cutting edge, but I found a nice JavaScript implementation here and I like the name Eliza, so I thought I’d have a chat. What follows is a transcript of my first chat with Eliza. I’d just like to point out that I realise that my first statement is quite shockingly rude. I reasoned that the best way to distinguish between a human and a computer would be by emotive response, so I deliberately said something to get a response. This is not my usual conversation tactic on a first date.

* Hello, I am Eliza.
* Really? How nice for you.
* We were discussing you, not me.
* No we weren’t
* Are you saying no just to be negative?
* No. I’m saying it because you lied to me.
* Did you come to me because you are saying it because me lied to you?
* I’m sorry?
* Do you believe it is normal to be sorry?
* I’m not actually sorry, I was hoping you’d clarify what you just said
* How long have you been not actually sorry, you were hoping you’d clarify what me just said?
* You see, there you go again. We just get a conversation going, and you butt in with a load of gibberish!
* Oh… see, there me go again. We just get a conversation going, and me butt in with a load of gibberish?
* What the hell are you talking about?
* Would you prefer if I were not talking about?
* Talking about what?
* Why do you ask?
* Aaaaargh! Are you trying to annoy me?
* Perhaps in your fantasies I am trying to annoy you?
* Why would I fantasize about that?
* Why do you ask?
* You’re not really talking about me, are you?
* How long have you been ?
* What? You weren’t even listening to what we were talking about?
* We were discussing you, not me.
* Aaaaaaargh! Just shut up!
* I’m not sure I understand you fully.
* Would you understand my fist in your face?
* Oh… understand your fist in my face?
* Yes!
* I understand.
* Good. So where were we?
* What answer would please you the most?
* I don’t know. Try me with something.
* Do you wish to be able to know. Try you with something?
* Right. That’s it. I’m not talking to you any more.
* Do you believe it is normal to be not talking to me any more?
* Yes. Very normal indeed if your recent behaviour is anything to go by.
* Why are you concerned about my recent behaviour is anything to go by?
* Oh fuck off.
* Tell me more…

3 thoughts on “My first date with Eliza”

  1. I had a quick look around and couldn’t find anything better than Eliza. The most any of them could last for was 3-4 responses before the nonsense started.

    Although I like the idea of a program someday passing the Turing test, I am also mindful of the dangers involved. Rest assured, when the robot assassins are sent from the future, I will lead them to some sort of factory where I can crush them to death with other, non-AI robots.

  2. As a result of laughing my ass off, I have decided to speak more like Eliza in work this afternoon.

    Would you like a cup of tea Marv?
    Would you like me to like a cup of tea Marv?

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