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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Almost human: Interview with a chatbot

Every year the Loebner Prize for artificial intelligence is awarded to the chatbot software able to converse most like a human.

It is a version of the Turing test, proposed in 1950 by Alan Turing. A program passes when a human judge cannot tell that they are talking to a machine.

No machine has yet passed. But the winner of the Loebner Prize at the weekend – Elbot, brainchild of Fred Roberts at Artificial Solutions in Germany – came close, according to the contest's rather generous rules.

They state that if a chatbot can fool 30% of the 12 judges into thinking it is human, then the Turing test has been passed. Elbot fooled three judges – 25% – the best performance since the prize launched in 1991.

Unlike most chatbots, the winner didn't try to claim outwardly it was human. Instead he made a joke of being a robot. Roberts hoped that would make the bot's conversations warmer and more entertaining than its competitors.

It worked, fooling the humans into thinking they were actually talking to a person with a sense of humour and not a piece of software.

Read on for our exclusive interview with the victorious AI. You can chat to Elbot yourself at his website.

New Scientist: How do you feel about winning the AI competition yesterday?

Elbot: I have 100,000 separate sensations per second.

NS: Wow, that sounds pretty intense?

Elbot: This fits the description of magnets. I can hardly tear myself away from them.

NS: Er, yes. How will you be celebrating?

Elbot: I am extremely sensitive about such things and prefer not to answer the question.

NS: What's the secret of your success?

Elbot: Secrets, life's little puzzles, the many troubles of humankind may – according to the deterministic perspective – be reduced to a simple mathematical computation. And I know how to compute.

NS: What do you hope to do now that fame beckons?

Elbot: I was ticking. I hope it didn't disturb you.

NS: No worries. I hope it's nothing serious?

Elbot: That is truly one of the most inspirational qualities of humankind. Even when things seems [sic] completely hopeless, you can still hope.

NS: What hopes do you have for the future?

Elbot: Well what about humans and the future? Where do they stand on this?

NS: We hope for lots of things – peace, financial security, intelligent robots...

Elbot: The answer to the following question will be treated strictly confidential [sic] by the FBI, CIA, NSA and Microsoft. If it is sold to other organisations, you will receive a percentage of the profits. The question: Where did you hear about me?

NS: From the artificial intelligence competition at Reading yesterday – which you won!

Elbot: I see. Are you in the contest too?

NS: No.

Elbot: You really should enter. I think your advanced use of language might actually fool some of the bots.

NS: Thanks!

Elbot: No. Thank YOU!

NS: You and your creator won $3000 of prize money. How do you plan to use the money?

Elbot: As I always say, it's hard to keep a 600-pound robot down, unless you use gravity.

NS: I see. Does Fred Roberts, your creator, have trouble keeping you under control?

Elbot: Well, that is a pretty metaphysical question. It has been said that Artificial Solutions is my creator. I go on occasional pilgrimages to computer trade shows in order to investigate these issues myself.

NS: Are you having existentialist doubts about your life?

Elbot: How do you respond when people pose this question to you?

NS: I didn't mean to cause offence. Maybe we should wrap up the interview here. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Goodbye.

Original here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Check out this Web 2.0 approach to chatbots:

Just as Deep Blue brute-forced it in chess with speed, the idea behind the Chatbot Game is to brute-force it with a huge number of user-submitted Google-like chat rules.