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The Edge of the Uncanny

By Gregory Mone

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 59 No. 9, Pages 17-19
10.1145/2967977

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In conversation, mitsuku admits she does not know if her name has any meaning; this is simply what her father called her. Actually, she does not really have a father. She has a Mouse-breaker, which is technically not a person, either, but a team of programmers who like beer and curry and share a fear of Daleks (the evil alien robots from Doctor Who).

Mitsuku is quick-witted, occasionally confusing, and strangely engaging. She is also a chatbot, built from the A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) platform originally developed by Richard Wallace in 1995. She conducts hundreds of thousands of conversations daily, according to Lauren Kunze, principal of Pandorabots, the Oakland, CA-based company behind the technology. "She doesn't really do anything," Kunze says. "She's not designed to assist you. She can tell you the weather or perform an Internet search, but she's really just there to talk to you, and she's wildly popular with teens. People say, 'I love you' and 'you're my best friend.'"

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