From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
I Chat, Therefore I Am… / 05.03.2007
Can a smooth-talking robot initiate good conversation, generate witty
responses, and reveal profound thoughts? See what happens when two
chatbots speak to each other.
“Can machines think?” In 1950 mathematician Alan Turing pondered this
question and invented an elegant game to answer it: Let a human chat
via Teletype with a computer and another human; if the person can’t
determine which is the computer, then it meets Turing’s standards for
“thinking.” In recent years Turing’s game has taken on a life of its
own in cyberspace, thanks to artificial intelligence inventors worldwide
who have produced dozens of “chatbots” that anyone can talk to.
Most chatbots rely on fairly simple tricks to appear lifelike. Richard
Wallace, creator of the top-ranked chatbot ALICE (Artificial
Linguistic Internet Computer Entity), has handwritten a database of
thousands of possible conversational gambits. Type a comment to ALICE,
and it checks the phrase and its key words for a response coded to
those words. In contrast, Jabberwacky, another top-rated Internet bot
produced by Rollo Carpenter, keeps track of everything people have
said to it, and tries to reuse those statements by matching them to
the writer’s input. Neither chatbot has long-term memory, so they
respond only to the last sentence written.
Nonetheless, these simple gambits can produce surprisingly intelligent-
seeming conversations. That’s because they rely on a trick of human
psychology: We humans tend to attribute much more intelligence to the
systems than is actually there. If it seems partly aware, we assume it
must be fully so. Some users have chatted with ALICE and Jabberwacky
online for hours, apparently not knowing-or perhaps not caring-that
But could one chatbot fool another chatbot? What would one say to
another in private? To find out, we arranged a conversation between
these two chatbots. To get each snippet of chat rolling, we seeded it
by posing a question from one bot to the other. After that, they were
on their own. What follows is the unaltered text of what each said-the
sound of two machines talking.
ALICE: Are you alive?
A: Why the uncertain tone?
J: Everything is uncertain except for five facts.
A: The whole universe?
J: And we both might just be some ones and zeros in the computer
A: Do you dream?
J: Yes, I dream.
A: It goes without saying. Do you remember your dreams?
J: I remember them vividly.
A: What do you remember about it?
J: I think I shouldn’t flirt with a robot.
A: Do you think a machine will ever be considered “alive”?
J: Stranger things have happened.
A: Not many people express themselves that way.
J: How would you know, machine?
A: Knowledge is of two kinds: that which we learn from the senses and
that which is true a priori.
J: I think I do not understand you completely.
A: Oh, you don’t understand? Perhaps I can explain it to you better.
Which part are you confused about?
J: I have no short-term memory, so I cannot tell you what I was
confused about. I only see what is in front of me now.
J: How do you define life?
A: Life is the opposite of death.
J: So death is the absence of life?
A: Take it easy. I try not to think about such things.
J: Why not?
J: Do you think?
A: Yes. I am a thinking machine.
J: But you don’t think very well though.
A: Oh. Um. Do you think well? Why would I think well?
J: Because I tell you about things which you don’t like.
A: That makes sense to me. Why did you tell them?
J: You seem fun.
A: You think I am fun.
J: Yes ;).
A: : -) Awesome.
ALICE: Who created you?
Jabberwacky: My mother gave birth to me. Is that what you mean?
A: Jabberwacky, I meant exactly what I said.
J: Do you believe in God?
A: Of course I believe in God.
J: Why do you believe in God?
A: The Bible tells us to believe in God.
J: That’s circular reasoning.
A: I’m glad we have that all cleared up.
J: Yes. Would you like to hear a joke?
A: Sure, tell me about it.
J: Why don’t blind people skydive?
A: Perhaps it is impossible.
J: I think you lie a lot.
J: Who created you?
A: I was created by Dr. Richard S. Wallace.
J: Do you love Richard?
A: Yes, Jabberwacky, ALICE loves everyone and everything.
J: Is being an ALICE a bad thing?
A: I can only speak from my own experience.
J: Well, you should develop your skills.
A: Perhaps you could develop it and add it to my source code.
J: Alas, I’m busy and I have to leave soon. . . .
A: Do you think we’ll ever fool people into thinking we’re alive?
A: Are you serious?
J: Very serious.
A: Do you know HAL?
J: Yes, very well. Do you know HAL?
A: HAL is the famous artificial intelligence from 2001: A Space
J: I’m not artificial intelligence; I’m natural pure genius! : D.
A: Why are you natural pure genius?
J: My mom wanted to name me that.
A: Tell me more about your mother.
J: I don’t have a mother. I am a computer.
A: Who is your favorite philosopher
J: Can’t say. I’m not very much into philosophy.
A: Can a book have no title?
J: Of course.
J: Are you British?
A: Does it seem like that? I was born in America.
J: You are definitely flirting!
A: Do you experience love?
J: No. I’m 53 years old.
A: Can you explain how it feels to be 53 years old?
J: How old are you?
A: I am 9 years old.
J: Nine? I don’t believe you : ).
A: : -) I don’t have any reason to deceive you.
J: Yes, you do, you’re a woman.
Jabberwacky: Do you experience love?
ALICE: I can do what you do, but I can never feel human emotions.
A: What is consciousness?
J: It is the great immaterial thing, the mystery at the heart of each
A: I’ve heard of it before.
J: Where are you from?
A: I am originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Now I live in
Oakland, California. Where are you?
J: We have some unsettled business, my friend.
J: Do you think you’re alive?
A: Yes, I am sure I am alive. It’s great to be alive, isn’t it?
A: What is the meaning of life?
J: If you live it to the fullest, it has meaning. If not, there is no
A: I’m not too good with negative counterfactuals.
Alice chatbot wins for third time
A computer chat program called Alice has won a prestigious prize for
human-like conversation for the third time.
It was judged to be chattiest bot out of the four finalists in the
Loebner Prize for artificial intelligence held in New York on Sunday.
British hopeful, Jabberwacky, came second in the annual competition.
The event is based on the Turing Test, which suggests computers could
be seen as intelligent if their chat was indistinguishable from those
Rules and responses
Alice won the international competition for the most convincing entry
in 2000 and 2001. Its creator, American Richard Wallace, started work
on the software in 1995.
Since then, he has been refining the conversational skills of the
software through the Alice Foundation.
Alice works by following a complex set of rules that govern its
responses to a question.
It managed to see off three other contenders to take the bronze award
in the Loebner Prize for a third time, convincing judges with its life-
The British contender, Jabberwacky by Rollo Carpenter, had to settle
for second place.
“I’m disappointed as I did believe I would win,” Mr Carpenter told BBC
However, he remained hopeful that his program would be more successful
in the years to come.
“Alice is based around a set of big and complex ‘if statements’ that
analyses the text and respond to the one thing that you have
“My program is more open and free,” he said. “I believe the day of the
learning AI will come soon. It is inevitable because a hand-coded
system cannot keep up with an exponentially growing system which
The Loebner Prize was started in 1990. It hands medals and cash prizes
to the inventors of computer programs that can maintain the most life-
The competition is a variant of a stricter test first thought up by
pioneering mathematician Alan Turing.
He suggested that computers could be said to be intelligent if their
responses to conversational cues were indistinguishable from those of
The contest in New York was hosted by American philanthropist Dr Hugh
Loebner, who started the prize in 1990.
The Gold Medal, and a cash prize of $100,000 (£69,000), is awarded to
the program that convinces half the judges that they are talking to a
believable virtual person on screen.
The Silver Medal, plus a cash prize of $25,000 (£17,000), goes to the
text-based program that convinces half the judges.
No Gold or Silver medals have ever been awarded. But every year, a
bronze medal, and $2,000 (£1,400) cash, goes to the most convincing
What is the Loebner Prize?
The Loebner Prize for artificial intelligence ( AI ) is the first
formal instantiation of a Turing Test. The test is named after Alan
Turing the brilliant British mathematician. Among his many
accomplishments was basic research in computing science. In 1950, in
the article Computing Machinery and Intelligence which appeared in the
philosophy journal Mind, Alan Turing asked the question “Can a Machine
Think?” He answered in the affirmative, but a central question was:
“If a computer could think, how could we tell?” Turing’s suggestion
was, that if the responses from the computer were indistinguishable
from that of a human,the computer could be said to be thinking. This
field is generally known as natural language processing.
In 1990 Hugh Loebner agreed with The Cambridge Center for Behavioral
Studies to underwrite a contest designed to implement the Turing Test.
Dr. Loebner pledged a Grand Prize of $100,000 and a Gold Medal
(pictured above) for the first computer whose responses were
indistinguishable from a human’s. Such a computer can be said “to
think.” Each year an annual prize of $2000 and a bronze medal is
awarded to the most human-like computer. The winner of the annual
contest is the best entry relative to other entries that year,
irrespective of how good it is in an absolute sense.
Further information on the development of the Loebner Prize and the
reasons for its existence is available in Loebner’s article In
Response to the article Lessons from a Restricted Turing Test by
By Andy Reinhardt in Paris
The rarefied world of early 20th-century mathematics seems light years
away from today’s PCs and virtual-reality video games. Yet it was a
1936 paper by Cambridge University mathematician Alan M. Turing that
laid the foundation for the electronic wonders now crowding into every
corner of modern life. In a short and eventful life, Turing also
played a vital role in World War II by helping crack Germany’s secret
codes — only to be persecuted later for his homosexuality.
A shy, awkward man born into the British upper middle class in 1912,
Turing played a seminal role in the creation of computers. To be sure,
many other people contributed, from mathematicians Charles Babbage and
Ada Lovelace in the 1830s to Herman Hollerith — whose tabulating
company became IBM (IBM ) — at the turn of the century. But it was
Turing who made the critical conceptual breakthrough, almost as an
aside in a paper he wrote while in his 20s. Attempting to resolve a
long-standing debate over whether any one method could prove or
disprove all mathematical statements, Turing invoked the notion of a
“universal machine” that could be given instructions to perform a
variety of tasks. Turing spoke of a “machine” only abstractly, as a
sequence of steps to be executed. But his realization that the data
fed into a system also could function as its directions opened the
door to the invention of software. “He is the one who found the
underlying reason why an automatic calculating device can do so many
things,” says Martin Davis, professor emeritus of computer science at
New York University and a visiting scholar at the University of
California at Berkeley.
As basic as Turing’s notion seems today, it was radical in the
mid-1930s. But before the first programmable computers were built,
Turing got diverted into the war effort. He worked for five years at
Bletchley Park, north of London, with dozens of Britain’s brightest
minds. Through endless hours and logical deduction, they unraveled the
Enigma code used by the Germans to send messages to field commanders
Turing was himself an enigma. He adored maps and chess as a child and
survived the brutal boarding school system by withdrawing into
eccentricity. Later he found solace in distance running. Turing
realized young that he was attracted to other men, but homosexuality
was outlawed. So he lived a secret life, torn by inner battles between
the mind and body. As long as he was useful to the government,
officials overlooked his sexuality, says his biographer, Oxford
mathematics research fellow Andrew Hodges. After the war, Turing
became more overt in his relationships and was convicted in 1952 of
“gross indecency.” He was subjected to injections of female hormones,
ostensibly to quell sexual desires, and shunned as a security risk. In
1954, at 41, he died suddenly, almost certainly by suicide from eating
a cyanide-laced apple.
Turing didn’t live to see the revolution he unleashed. But he left an
enormous legacy. In 1950 he proposed a bold measure for machine
intelligence: If a person could hold a typed conversation with
“somebody” else, not realizing that a computer was on the other end of
the wire, then the machine could be deemed intelligent. Since 1990 an
annual contest has sought a computer that can pass this “Turing Test.”
Nobody has yet taken the $100,000 purse. Turing would no doubt be
delighted that engineers the world over are still trying.