Inspired by Weizenbaum’s ELIZA, Ben Weber has created a chatbot that converses with other players in online games of StarCraft. The bot’s name is EISBot. “Once every thirty seconds,” explains Weber, “EISBot randomly selects a message from a pool of 75 messages and sends it to the console.” As the following transcript reveals, the bot’s randomly chosen messages fit seamlessly into the conversation:

EISBot: What to ally victory?

Player: damn you

Player: im not stupid

EISBot: Wanna join my clan

Player: dunno

Player: im not that great

Player: lol

EISBot: So, this game is pretty much over

Player: yeah

Player: lol

Player: im playing off race

Player: lol

EISBot: Quit wasting time, come kill me

EISBot: What kind of hardware are you using? I’m on a 486 with 16M ram, pure luxory!!!

Player: i dunno


EISBot: I’m a huge nonyt fanboy

EISBot: Have you played SC 2 yet?

Player: yeah

Player: pretty sick

EISBot: Have you ever played against a C player?

Player: nope

Player: wait

Player: yeah

Player: i lost

Player: badly

Player: haa

EISBot: Did you see the past OSL?

Player: kinda

Note that the bot’s one major flaw is that its command of the English language, particularly the use of punctuation marks, is much too sophisticated in comparison with that of the human. The sure way to distinguish the computer’s messages from the human’s is to recognize that the computer has a rather sentimental attachment to the apostrophe and the comma.

I take this as another indication that I am correct in my suspicion that when computers finally pass the Turing test it won’t be because computers have become smarter; it will be because humans have become dumber.


10 thoughts on “TuringCraft

  1. Kevin Kelly

    “…because computers have become smarter; it will be because humans have become dumber.”

    It’s the other way around. Humans can get away writing without punctuation because we are smart. It will be a while before computers can understand text without punctuation. Sort of like how humans can understand warped text in a Captcha, while computers find bad handwriting difficult.

    If anything, slang (and text abbreviations are slang, not just laziness) might be the last reveal for determining whether an intelligence is AI or human. (Slang is now often the last reveal for determining nationality or ethnicity among English speakers.)

    When bots can understand “pretty sick” then that’s when Nick should really start to worry.

  2. Ivo Quartiroli

    We are still trapped in the Cartesian belief that ideas can be created and communicated in a “pure” manner without the body.

    This test it just tells how poor online communication can be. Trite to say it, but without a real, embodied and energetic presence we miss most of the clues.

  3. Krzysztof Wiszniewski

    I wouldn’t be so optimistic about slang being much help in determining “humanity”, Kevin.

    It is true that the fact we are smart allows us to extract meaning from an error-ridden transmission (and the typical Web missive tends to be error-ridden to the extreme, if we consider the accepted standards of written communication elsewhere), but this is a double-edged sword.

    The problem is that the less actual verifiable information the message contains, the more we are required to supply the author’s meaning ourselves. Standards for doing so have evolved, but the consequence is that the author doesn’t actually have to make his meaning clear.

    In terms of a Turing test, it used to be that we saw the implementation of aforementioned communication standards (grammar and punctuation, for instance) and relation to context as the key problems. These days, the former has completely ceased to be relevant (on the Web anyway) and the latter is diluted by the fact that it’s possible to say a lot without actually saying much and still be understood.

    Since we’ve gotten used to the fact that we have to distill the meaning from poorly formulated communications, the construction of a dumb communicator – based on some kind of random or somewhat contextual generation algorithm – is that much more feasible. When faced with a communication that doesn’t actually make much sense of itself, we’re inclined to bend over backwards to extract meaning from it, since we’re used to the fact that many people on the Web actually do communicate like that.

    In other words, Nick’s assertion may prove true in the sense that a thoroughly stupid program can be created that will generate communications indistinguishable from those sent by a multitude of (supposedly) intelligent human beings. It will pass the Turing test (for a given value of “pass”), but will in no way represent any form of Artificial Intelligence.

  4. Nick Carr

    What Krzysztof said.

    In addition, re: “It will be a while before computers can understand text without punctuation.”

    If I enter, say, “im a little teapot” into Google, I receive the same results that I get when I enter “i’m a little teapot.” So the Google computers already “understand” text missing standard punctuation as well as they “understand” text containing it. The type of understanding involved (simple symbolic decoding) doesn’t, of course, indicate any form of consciousness, much less higher intelligence, but that fact doesn’t contradict my hypothesis. In fact, it supports it.

  5. Larry Port

    Maybe I’m missing something, but there doesn’t seem to be a real conversation taking place with the bot.

    I don’t understand the context of the game, but it appears the bot is just asking questions and making comments but not really engaging in a back and forth dialog which is the hard part.

    The bot seems to be stateless.

    Can someone point out what I’m missing here?

  6. Larry Port

    OK Nick, I get it.

    The bot isn’t doing anything that a bot couldn’t have done 20 years ago. It’s nowhere near passing the test.

    It’s just the people are slipping.

  7. Nick Carr


    The funny thing is that while Weber compares his bot to ELIZA, ELIZA, developed more than 40 years ago, was far more sophisticated. It actually showed a little bit of sense.

  8. Jeremy Corbett

    This is really sad. StarCraft is a real-time strategy game. Anyone taking the time to construct well-formed sentences is taking time away from game play.

    This just shows you are willing to bash anything related to electronic communication without taking the time to investigate for 30 seconds.

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