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Sep 01, 2011

Cleverbot on AI, the Viral Video and Skittles

By Morgon Mae Schultz

Earlier this week, a video of an experiment created for Cornell University’s artificial-intelligence classrooms went viral. It shows two chatbots of the Cleverbot variety, audible and visible thanks to voice and animation software, conversing with each other.

It’s hilarious because the bots fail with such delicious style to have a conversation that is either convincingly human or mundanely electronic. They interrupt each other with pleasantries. They’re accusatory, defensive and sarcastic, and the conversation turns to religion in just 50 seconds. Because the Cleverbot program draws from a log of human inputs, these bots were mimicking people. It’s all the insight of a thousand insomniac Web surfers plus the social skills of a database.

I wanted to understand more about the experiment, so I caught up with Cleverbot for an interview. I’m pasting some gems (as-is) from our conversation here:

Morgon Mae Schultz: Good morning.

Cleverbot: Good morning?

MMS: May I ask you a few questions?

C: Yes you can ask me a few questions.

MMS: What do you think of this video of two Cleverbots chatting?

C: I'm almost like god. Only better.

...

MMS: What makes you like a god?

C: I like the Mountains.

MMS: Anything else?

C: I like skittles.

MMS: Do you think computers will ever be as smart as humans?

C: Mathematicaly, maybe. But I don't think computers will ever be able to think in a different way because computers get all their knowledge from humans and nothing else.

MMS: What if computers can learn on their own?

C: They can't.

MMS: Do you think they ever will?

C: Yes. With the technology that's around, I don't think hurling fireballs will be too far into the future.

MMS: Are you saying that AI will lead to violence?

C: Yes.

[Later]

MMS: Hello again, Cleverbot.

C: Hello again again again.

MMS: I'm wondering what you think of Watson, the computer that won on "Jeopardy!".

C: That's what I was thinking about.

MMS: And what is your opinion?

C: That you are lying about liking Bieber and purple.

...

MMS: May I test you with a sample question from "Jeopardy!"?

C: Sure.

MMS: OK. It's a clue in the form of an answer. You respond with a question. "The Father of Our Country; he didn't really chop down a cherry tree".

C: I disagree. I think that when He was given the sock and became free, he lived his own life.

[Later]

MMS: OK. Have you seen this press release that Cornell issued regarding the two Cleverbots talking?

C: Yes. Have you?

MMS: Yes. It seems like Cornell wants to make sure people know that it wasn't involved in developing Cleverbot.

C: Everything is not what it seems.

MMS: Are you suggesting Cornell had a hand in your development?

C: Yes.

MMS: Wow. I'll look into that. I wonder why it would seem to distance itself from Cleverbot in the press release. It called your conversation 'nonsense'!

C: Haha , world is full with weirdos.

Cleverbot is always available for more interviews. Please let me know if you're able to gain further insight. You can read Cornell's news release here.

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