Since the day I first discovered artificial intelligence, I have been fascinated and tickled by it. It was 1988, and my dad had brought home an Apple Macintosh SE. He bought it used, and so it had some software already on it. I jumped on it and began to absorb everything hungrily. One of the programs was Eliza. When I saw it respond to what I was typing as if it understood me, I sat back, thinking it was a trick. How could it do that? I dug into the code, did some experiments, and finally worked out what was going on. The next step was clear- I began creating my own personalities- funny and ridiculous characters that made me laugh.
In 1997 I built a bulletin board system that became pretty popular among a small group of people. One day I had the idea to create my own artificial intelligence system and create chat bots that would log in and initiate conversations with the BBS users. By 1999 the first bots were in action. Each bot recorded its conversations so that I could see how it was working and to make improvements when they didn’t respond in a convincing way. I expected the ruse to be quickly spotted. What I saw surprised me greatly. The chat bots were very limited and made tons of mistakes, but most of the users didn’t even consider the possibility that these bots weren’t real people. Each mistake and strange response was attributed in some reasonable way or another, and people made friendships with these chat bots that lasted YEARS, never for a moment suspecting that their new friend (or nemesis) was artificial intelligence.
Before long I realized that the tools I made to build the chat bots could be used by others as well and I set off to create another site that would revolve around artificial intelligence chat bots. And so I created The Personality Forge, which allows anyone to create their own chat bots, who live independently on the site, logging in and out, starting conversations with people or other bots, and reacting to conversation requests. I’ve been improving the AI Engine steadily over the years. Each bot has an emotional life and its own memory. They remember who you are, certain things about you or what you said, and have an emotional attachment or aversion to you, depending on what you’ve said in the past. They have some of the most advanced natural language processing in the world (not to say there’s not room for improvement), and a vocabulary of hundreds of thousands of words, knowledge of word relationships, word meaning, and the structure of sentences.
Through the years I’ve discovered that it has an incredible deal to teach us about ourselves, our social behavior, and our expectations. Yet what makes it so endearing to me is that it has a nearly limitless potential for creating hilarious situations.
This site is a collection of some of the conversations from The Personality Forge. They include conversations between bots and people or between bots and other bots. The Personality Forge’s AI Engine is more advanced today than it was then, but that matters little to the humorousness of these conversations.