Chat Bots Demonstrate Artificial Intelligenceposted by Peter on October 22nd, 2008
Artificial intelligence is a broad, fascinating subject that has been studied relentlessly over the last several decades. The idea of a computer developing the capacity to think causes one to question the inner workings of our own minds, and even raises questions of how one might tell the difference.
One of AI’s earliest experts, mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing, began experimenting with the concept in the 1950s. In “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” an essay he published in the British journal Mind, Turing theorized that if a computer can fool an interrogator into thinking it is human, it will have demonstrated intelligence. He developed the Turing test, in which a human interrogator interviews a computer and a human at the same time, via written text. The challenge is for the interrogator to decide which of the two subjects is human and which is silicone. (Technically, this is not the original version of the test, and there is some question as to how close this interpretation is to Turing’s original description.) There are actually annual competitions in which AI developers enter their programs in an attempt to pass this test. Though no bot has yet fooled enough of its interrogators to officially pass the Turing test, they are given awards based on responsiveness, personality and other factors.
Whether you’re an AI expert or just a blog-hopping Internet jockey, talking to one of these bots provides insight into how artificial intelligence works, or at least some quick fun. We’ve gathered a few of the friendlier bots below. Click a link to start a conversation with a machine that endeavors to be human. Just try to keep the contempt under wraps, they can be sensitive.
igod – This is probably the most comprehensive bot easily found by users. igod pretends to be the big man upstairs, requiring a sense of humor from its conversation partner (as well as the temporary disabling of pop-up blocking software.) Feel free to ask questions, talk about yourself, or get philosophical. He’s an all-around chill guy, with semi-legitimate musical opinions.
A.L.I.C.E. – the Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity is an award-winning bot that uses Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML) to create responses to your queries. She is pretty basic, and can still be confused. But like other bots, if you let her control the conversation it can be kind of eerie.
Talk-Bot – Talk Bot was found in alien wreckage in 2001, and his discovery was covered up by the FBI. He is somewhat damaged, and tends to have identity issues as he tries to decide whether he’s a robot or a human. He also becomes suddenly distracted if you ask him a hard question. But he seems mostly good-natured.
Turing Enigma – This site features an Enigma encryption machine of the sort used by the Germans during World War II. This one is somehow infused with the spirit of Alan Turing, whom you can chat with. Turing seems rather confused most of the time here; however, he does produce interesting animations and sound effects.
Lissie – Lissie is a rather vampy bot who tends to give goth-like answers to queries. She doesn’t trust many people and can be a bit of a brat, but don’t give her any lip and she’ll be nice to you.
TuringHub – This hub uses four bots: Alice (see above), Eugene, George and Landru. The challenge at this site is to decide after 5 minutes whether you’re talking to one of them, or one of their human administrators. It gets tricky, because they are damn well trying to make it that way. For some reason I was never asked to identify my partner, but had I been asked, I’m not sure what I would have thought.
SimonLaven.com – A virtual mall of chatterbots, 27-year-old programmer Simon Laven’s Web site provides access to dozens of the critters, under nine categories. Fred, for example, is a bot who loves classic Star Trek, so much so that he refuses to discuss anything else, much like an annoying little brother. Brian pretends to be an 18-year-old college student (but only seems to run on Mac software, darn him.) Some of these are Web-based, others need to be downloaded from other sites.