Experiment 10 - Talking to computers

Is there such a thing as artificial intelligence? Could you definitely tell if it was a person or a computer that was replying to your short messages?

Try our two selected chatbots. These are computer programmes designed to seem like a person having a conversation.
First try Eliza. This is one of the oldest computer programs to hold a conversation, written in the mid-1960s. It acts like a psychotherapist, echoing your statements back to you. It's quite easy to mess up, but if you play the game and don't try to be too clever, it is surprisingly good. Eliza will probably first respond by repeatedly saying 'Undefined' - don't worry, this just means she's got a bit of a headache.


You may need to scroll up to see the conversation…

Press enter when you have typed.

Then take a look at Cleverbot. This is one of the best modern chatbots. It is still relatively easy to get it coming up with a non-sequitur, but it has many more tricks up its sleeve to attempt to look human.
How did you do?

Eliza is a bit of an antique, but modern chatbots like Cleverbot take part in competitions where observers watch typed conversations between a human being and a hidden participant who could be another human or a piece of software. In a test in 2011, a total of 59 percent of observers thought Cleverbot was human. (The chances are, though, it got lucky.)

This version of Eliza by George Dunlop. If you enjoyed talking to Cleverbot, you can get versions for iPhones and Android phones.
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