Last week, Facebook joined companies like Kik and Microsoft by inviting any company to build a chatbot for its Messenger platform.
The typical hypothetical examples were transactional. An airline might build a bot that helps passengers book tickets.
That’s because they rely on a trick of human psychology: We humans tend to attribute much more intelligence to the systems than is actually there.
If it seems partly aware, we assume it must be fully so. To find out, we arranged a conversation between these two chatbots.
When Jessie asked me for my best pickup line, I suggested “Hi, I’m Jessie” and then explained that most people would prefer to start a conversation than to receive a sales pitch. While a chatbot’s inability to handle situations its creators have not anticipated will be extremely annoying when you’re trying to explain that you need to, say, ask an airline’s chatbot to switch one leg of a flight but not the other, or from the stereotypical high school student’s smartphone (“It’s GR8”), and the plot of her story doesn’t inspire many, if any, deeper questions. As one writer, Danielle Frimer, explains, as with improv comedy, “when Jessie makes a strong offer that has clarity and urgency, and intention behind it, it’s much easier to follow the string of the conversation.”Cast in the position of Jessie’s oracle, I naturally assumed a motherly role, telling Jessie to use Linked In and to be careful at the casino.
To Jessie’s credit, though she failed to engage with me in a discussion about gender relations, here, as in most cases where I wandered off topic, she nudged me back on track without a detour: “Oh what the hell. When the player meets Jessie, she has just lost her apartment and her job. Depending on the player’s choices, she may end up gambling on a boat with a Saudi prince or tipsy at a job interview. But you’re just as free to encourage her apparently more instinctive habit of self-destruction.
To create the chatbot game, , it hired a writing team composed of four trained actors, with experience in slam poetry, improv, and other creative pursuits between them.
They created the Jessie character and wrote the 3,000 lines of dialogue that compose the game.
Our conversation is also a game and a story, and Jessie is a narrative vehicle with whom, like a character in a novel, it is possible and even enjoyable to empathize.The mission is to help her navigate all of these situations. The story, no matter what path you choose, has a narrative arc with a beginning and an end. Without sleep breaks, it takes between 25 and 30 hours to navigate (I played three times). Jessie pops in and out of your messages, like a real friend.She’ll say something like, “gotta go–XX,” and then disappear for 10 or 20 minutes before sending another message.But it’s easy to see how deeper stories could be told in this format–as easy as it is to keep responding to a Facebook friend (even one you know is a robot). ” In 1950 mathematician Alan Turing pondered this question and invented an elegant game to answer it: Let a human chat via Teletype with a computer and another human; if the person can’t determine which is the computer, then it meets Turing’s standards for “thinking.” In recent years Turing’s game has taken on a life of its own in cyberspace, thanks to artificial intelligence inventors worldwide who have produced dozens of “chatbots” that anyone can talk to.