You simply must visit AOLiza. I was in tears. You can read all about it at the site, but basically here’s the story: A guy took one of the original artificial intelligence programs (ELIZA) and connected it to an AOL instant messenger account. The account sits on line and people attempt to chat with it because they think it’s a real person. Some of the recorded conversations are laugh-out-loud funny.

The Back Story: In 1966 Joseph Weizenbaum at M.I.T. wrote ELIZA, a famous program that simulates a Rogerian psychoanalyst by taking excerpts from the subject’s comments and posing questions back to the subject. While not a giant leap in AI programming, ELIZA (named after Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady) showed that some semblance of ‘awareness’ could be synthesized simply by using input pattern recognition, combined with predefined phrases. Some people claim that ELIZA was the first program to pass the Turing Test, fooling subjects into thinking it was an actual person.

Enter AOLiza: Using a publicly available Perl version of ELIZA, a Mac with nothing better to do than play psychoanalyst, a few applescripts, and an AOL Instant Messenger account that has a high rate of ‘random’ people trying to start conversations, put ELIZA in touch with the real world. Every few days he puts up the latest ‘patients.’

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