In a three-part history of the Eliza psychotherapeutic chatbot, Jimmy Maher ('the digital antiquarian') covers both the circumstances of Eliza's birth and the way that the people around her thought about her. The third installment, in particular, deals with the reactions of people who watched people reacting to Eliza -- that is, what do we make of the way that Eliza's creator felt about the way that Eliza's users behaved:
Weizenbaum's reaction to all of this has become almost as famous as the Eliza program itself. When he saw people like his secretary engaging in lengthy heart-to-hearts with Eliza, it... well, it freaked him the hell out. The phenomenon Weizenbaum was observing was later dubbed "the Eliza effect" by Shelly Turkle, which she defined as the tendency "to project our feelings onto objects and to treat things as though they were people." In computer science and new media circles, the Eliza effect has become shorthand for a user's tendency to assume based on its surface properties that a program is much more sophisticated, much more intelligent, than it really is. Weizenbaum came to see this as not just personally disturbing but as dangerous to the very social fabric, an influence that threatened the ties that bind us together and, indeed, potentially threatened our very humanity. Weizenbaum's view, in stark contrast to those of people like Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy at MIT's own Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, was that human intelligence, with its affective, intuitive qualities, could never be duplicated by the machinery of computing -- and that we tried to do so at our peril. Ten years on from Eliza, he laid out his ideas in his magnum opus, Computer Power and Human Reason, a strong push-back against the digital utopianism that dominated in many computing circles at the time.
Alex Wood is an addict but won’t give up his smartphone. But he has five strategies for limiting its control over him: “I used to wake up tired. My body would ache and my head felt sore, like waking up with a hangover. Finally, I took control, like attending an AA class for addicts, I […]
Ok, it’s not just solar powered. It’s also an anti-theft, waterproof marvel that keeps my phone’s power bar from ever getting into the red.Sure the idea seems obvious now – tuck a gigantic solar powered battery pack into an exposed slot and turn the wearer into a walking energy harvester. Simple maybe, but I didn’t […]
When you can’t wait for the world’s longest meeting to end, the mindless leg bouncing makes your boredom obvious and just annoys everybody else. Everyone knows the TPS reports need the damn cover sheet, but some sadistic colleague keeps forgetting, probably on purpose just to eat into your lunch hour. Enough is enough!While serving a […]
What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]
You know the drill. You go to the dentist and they ask you how often you floss. You lie through your teeth and say, “every day!” (Bonus points if you have some cilantro or chives stuck in your gums from lunch). You don’t want to keep up the charade any longer, but rubbing that tiny strand […]