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'A Certain Danger Lurks There': How the Inventor of the First Chatbot Turned Against AI

By The Guardian (U.K.)

July 25, 2023

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In 1966, an MIT professor named Joseph Weizenbaum created the first chatbot. He cast it in the role of a psychotherapist. A user would type a message on an electric typewriter connected to a mainframe. After a moment, the "psychotherapist" would reply.

User: Men are all alike.
Chatbot: IN WHAT WAY
User: They're always bugging us about something or other.
Chatbot: CAN YOU THINK OF A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE
User: Well, my boyfriend made me come here.
Chatbot: YOUR BOYFRIEND MADE YOU COME HERE
User: He says I'm depressed much of the time.
Chatbot: I AM SORRY TO HEAR YOU ARE DEPRESSED

Weizenbaum published this sample exchange in a journal article that explained how the chatbot worked. The software was relatively simple. It looked at the user input and applied a set of rules to generate a plausible response. He called the program Eliza, after Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. The cockney flower girl in George Bernard Shaw's play uses language to produce an illusion: she elevates her elocution to the point where she can pass for a duchess. Similarly, Eliza would speak in such a way as to produce the illusion that it understood the person sitting at the typewriter.

From The Guardian (U.K.)
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