Eliza- Don’t rely on her

Eliza, who was created first in 1966, was the first interactive “chat bot.”  In class we learned that Weizenbaum created Eliza as somewhat of a joke, to mimic that computers could  really know what humans were thinking.  To many, Eliza served and operated much like a therapist.  She would respond to  a person’s text with simple answers, mostly questions- much like a therapist or psychiatrist.  With only 200 lines of code, Eliza operated very simply and if questions were too complex, she would not understand what you were saying.  Still, this was the first time humans were witnessing this type of communication from a computer.

After doing a little bit of Google research,  I found that Weizenbaum was not too impressed with the response that people had to Eliza.  Many people believed that Eliza was some type of “Artificial Intelligence.”  Weizenbaum, however, knew that computers had limitations- that although they could interact with human beings- they were not producing their own thoughts or feelings.  Still, people were fascinated with this invention and believed that computers could mock human interactions.  In Weizenbaum’s book, Computer Power and Human Reason, he explains how we should not allow computers to make decisions for us.

Although Eliza was the first interactive “therapist,” we have seen almost an uncountable number of other chat bots like this in recent years.  When AOL Instant Messenger was popular almost ten years ago, there were many bots you could add, similar to Eliza, who would conversate and interact with you.  These bots even had their own interests, and you could interact with one for music, one for your homework questions, etc.  In more recent years, with the creation of the smart phone and downloadable applications, there have been several chat bots like this that will simulate responses between text messages.  If you want to try out a new version of this chatbot for your Iphone, try Alice.  In the description it states that she has her own opinions and a “strong will” of her own.  In the reviews, however, it states that she is unable to learn or grasp new information, much like Eliza.  Although we have expanded and upgraded this “Artificial Intelligence,”  it seems Weizenbaum was correct in saying that we cannot rely on chat bots for information.

  1 comment for “Eliza- Don’t rely on her

  1. February 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    If you want to try out a new version of this chatbot for your Iphone, try Alice. In the description it states that she has her own opinions and a “strong will” of her own.

    How about Siri? Even though she’s just supposed to be helpful, many people do respond to her as though she has both a personality and a blythe disregard for our human needs.

    If nothing else, it’s a great example of how easily we anthropomorphize technology, especially when we find ourselves in conflict.

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