Eliza Doctor

Describe ElizaDoctor here.

I'm not sure I understand you fully.

Weizenbaum's Eliza program. Describe it.

Please go on.

You're not helping.

What makes you think I am not helping?

You're just twisting my words.

Your words?

Well, I guess most people have discussions like this with you.

Perhaps in your fantasies most people have discussions like this with each other.

No, my fantasies involve things far more elaborate than sitting around and talking.

Tell me about your fantasies.


You are being a bit negative.

Why, you useless little piece of software... I'm off to surf Usenet!


Does Eliza demonstrate the poor state of AI, the poor state of psychotherapy, or both?

Neither. It demonstrates the limits of both, and quite admirably.

The "eliza effect", while a good cautionary lesson, doesn't really have anything to say about the limits of AI (which are not known). I doubt it has much more to say about psychotherapy.

Eliza is more revealing of human nature, really. As a program, it was a simple trick back then as it is now, but people were just amazed by the supposed intelligence of this program. The mindless parroting Eliza performs provides just enough feedback to appear to validate the human "patient", who continues on for reasons that can be essentially boiled down to "people like to hear themselves talk if they get any impression of someone listening" (or read what they type at any rate).

Other interaction programs came into vogue soon after ELIZA, including more advanced tweaks to Eliza such as giving her a memory. RACTER is one of the most well-known of these, which "simulates" a psychotic in a similar manner to Eliza (getting the two to converse often produced amusing results). Of such conversational programs, Eliza has had the most staying power, but is often seen more as an idiom for conversational interfaces that consist of mindless parroting than as any sort of seminal work. Given that most people are no longer amazed by anything and everything that comes from a computer, the introduction of an Eliza program to even school-age children these days would almost certainly be seen immediately for the very simple thing it is.

From the XpMailingList:

Phlip: if(q) { \n } is harder to refactor than if(q) \n { \n }

Ron: Please support that position.

Eliza: Say, do you have any psychological problems?

Phlip: No! Get out of my head you dumb program!! I could have written you!!!

Eliza: Are you implying something?

As a learning exercise in the early days of singleboard computers I wrote an "Eliza" like program in Basic.

But there was a bug.

So forgetting I was still talking to the program, and not the Basic interpretor I requested it to "list 10000-100000" expecting that part of the program I knew to contain the problem.

The program comes back with...

"Really, Why?"

My brain train was flung wildly off its tracks.


Some years ago, a grad student named KevinFox? created AOLiza, a Perl based version of ElizaDoctor designed to act as a bot on AOL Instant Messenger. The results (http://fury.com/aoliza/) are both enlightening and a bit disturbing, especially for an 'experiment' (or practical joke) run thirty-five years after Weizenbaum's original program was written.

CategoryWhimsy, CategoryArtificialStupidity

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