When Robots Chat



Years ago, actually before the internet was invented, I worked for a leading computer company here in the UK (Apricot). On one occasion I saw a forerunner of the modern chatbot application and, at the time, it took me a few questions before I realised that I was not dealing with a human being, but a computer program.

Of course, if you can’t see someone, you have to rely on what is actually being said, or typed, and some humans are almost as bad as chatbots in this respect, so perhaps the above is not so surprising on reflection. These days, you often come across these chatbot applications online where a little window pops up and an image (avatar) of a person is shown together with some apparently typed message.

The thing is, these chatbot applications are getting much better at speaking with humans. They have a good vocabulary if not, yet, a decent grasp on the subtleties of enunciation. Today, a really good chatbot might do a decent job of fooling someone, at least for a short while.

You know the thing:

Kylie: Hello, my name is Kylie and I am authorised to offer you a special discount today.

Me: That’s great Kylie. Perhaps I could use the amount I would save to take you out to dinner?

Kylie: Our product has an unconditional guarantee.

Me: So, are you free at 7.00 pm tonight?

Kylie: If you would like to purchase seven products, we also have bulk discounts.

Me: I bet you say that to all the guys.

By the way, the above conversation is entirely fictitious. I don’t go around trying to pick up chatbots, but you get the general idea, chatbots are supposed to be able to hold a decent conversation, though, of course, a lot depends upon the language and programming skills of its creator.

So What would happen if two chatbots actually had a conversation with each other. That was what a group of students at Cornell University wanted to know and the result is shown in the video above. I found it quite interesting to see that the conversation got round to the subject of God and then they fell out with each other. In some respects, that is quite human isn’t it?

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