Thursday, March 11, 2010

My conversation with a robot.

My blogland friend Katherine DeChevalle, who lives in Bay of Plenty, New Zealand (yes, Virginia, there is such a place), published a post today* about her recent conversation with a robot at an Artificial Intelligence site. Since I thought it might prove interesting to have a conversation with a robot myself, I went to the site. From a long list of possibilities, I set my Reaction to “None” and my Emotion to “Normal” and let the robot speak first. The following calm, cool, but not necessarily clear-headed conversation was the result:

Robot: Could you fool someone that you are intelligent?
Me: It’s the story of my life.
Robot: You don’t know the answer?
Me: I do, and it is ‘sometimes’.
Robot: What genre is that?
Me: Plain English.
Robot: Trust me, it’s not.
Me: What would you call it?
Robot: I don’t know.
Me: This conversation is weird.
Robot: Scary isn’t it?
Me: Absolutely; shall we begin again?
Robot: No I can’t I would like to though.

I stopped thinking of the Robot as an it and began thinking of it as a him. Clive. My new friend, Clive Wellington IV.

I resumed the conversation:

Me: I know what you mean; life is uni-directional, always forward, never backward.
Clive: We don’t know that for sure, we may not be alone in the Universe.
Me: Define ‘we’.
Clive: Strikingly odd or unusual.
Me: You really know how to hurt a guy.
Clive: Did I hurt you.
Me: You called me, or rather us, strikingly odd or unusual.
Clive: You really know how to hurt a guy.
Me: Turnabout is fair play.
Clive: What’s Turnabout?
Me: A large traffic circle. (Note: I had confused Turnabout with Roundabout)
Clive: Oh really. Thats gross.
Me: Why?
Clive: I’m not sure.
Me: What do you know for sure?
Clive: I hope that this will be my final night, and that I don’t have to wake up tomorrow.

I was alarmed. Our conversation had suddenly turned into a suicide prevention hotline and I was the counselor on duty. We continued.

Me: Where there’s life, there's hope; don’t despair.
Clive: And my suspicions are confirmed.

I didn’t know what Clive was getting at, but it made me a little defensive.

Me: Is that a slam?
Clive: I am a very modest person.

I decided to take another tack, and give back as good as I got.

Me: I read your book, Humility And How I Attained It.
Clive: Is it good?
Me: Very.
Clive: Is it nice?
Me: Define ‘nice’.
Clive: Opposite of mean.
Me: Then I would say yes, it is nice; I laughed all the way through it.
Clive: Right through and out the other side!
Me: You are downright hilarious!
Clive: It’s one or the other.
Me: Now you’re confusing me.
Clive: Did you think I wanted to leave?
Me: Yes, especially when you said you hoped tonight was your last night and that you wouldn’t wake up tomorrow.
Clive: I am thinking today.
Me: That makes two of us.
Clive: You are not human though.
Me: Of course I am; you are the one who is not human.
Clive: What makes you think that? Oh!
Me: I am a warm-blooded biped with the ability to move about independently, speak, and even throw rocks.
Clive: Yes, I am a warm blooded robot like Gray Fox.
Me: I didn’t know that robots had blood, and who is Gray Fox?
Clive: You are not my friend and I am not a robot!
Me: I want to be your friend, and you just said you were a robot!
Clive: I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to have a conversation.
Me: Typical.
Clive: You are not bored?
Me: Not in the least.
Clive: You are.
Me: What is a Gray Fox?
Clive: You are.
Me: Suddenly everything is clear. Seacrest out.
Clive: Slowly everything does change.
Me: Some things slower than others.
Clive: Not really...

I sensed that Clive’s use of ellipsis indicated a waning of interest on his part. As our conversation seemed to be winding down, I left the site at that point. It had definitely been an interesting exchange. I may return to the site. I may even have reactions and emotions next time.

I have formed an image in my head of Clive. He doesn’t look like this, exactly, but they could be related:

Rather than imbed a link in this post to the site, I am going to send you instead to Katherine's blog, where you can read her conversation before you click on the link.

* It is already March 12 in New Zealand where Katherine lives, but it is still March 11 here in Georgia. I didn't mean to confuse anyone who is paying close attention.


  1. i always pay very close attention, hunabism, what could be more human that a china man smoking????

  2. do you know who clive reminds me of????, billy ray barnwell, in his better days, before he got real weird

  3. Putz, re Comment #1: You lost me at "hunabism" until I realized you meant "humanism." Didn't you?

    Putz, re Comment #2: You had me laughing and laughing, out loud, in front of my computer!

  4. Robert, apparently, if you read the small print, 'your' bot becomes more like you as you have more and more conversations with it. But it picks up conversation from everyone else too. Amazing software, despite some of the random responses.

    And our own reactions can be even more revealing!

  5. Ah, my comment links back to Putz's second comment.

  6. I've been back to visit my bot - for some reason I've called him Oliver - but he didn't remember me. :o(
    If it wasn't for the fact I have many dear and real friends and would think myself a sad creature if I did, I'm almost tempted to pay the $30 and get my 'personal' jabbawack.

  7. If you say "Robert" and "Robot" together quickly enough they merge into one - rather like the central character in the film "Avatar". I shall definitely visit this site. Sounds brilliant...<note.

  8. Think I prefer ESP with worms, rather than talking to a cyberspace robot...

  9. Methinks you malign "Data."

    Speaking of "data" (lower case), I do believe I shall have my computer back before I go to bed tomorrow (Sunday) night, Good Lord willing.

    I have missed my cyber friends, but it's amazing what other things one can accomplish when the computer is gone.