Clever Tweetbots

Earlier in the week, I played this Radiolab segment “Clever Bots” for my students in my summer science fiction course. We were discussing artificial intelligence after reading Neuromancer by William Gibson and the segment discusses robots that approach what Alan Turing described as the threshold for intelligent machines (the ability for a machine to converse with a human and for that human to be unable to distinguish between the machine and another human around 30% of the time–the “Turing test”).

I was discussing language games and computer programming with Nicole earlier today. I was telling her about the interview in the above segment of Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT, concerning a program named ELIZA: a language game program ca. 1966 that used natural language processing (NLP) to mimic the role of a therapist practicing Rogerian psychotherapy (a form of talk therapy), only a little too closely for the creator’s comfort. Reportage on the program speculated that people would go to phone-booth-like installations to receive therapy rather than a human psychiatrist. The creator, Joseph Weizenbaum, was greatly disturbed by the artificiality of this type of interaction.

When I saw James Schirmer, professor of English and prolific tweeter playing with the app That can be my next tweet, I had to give it a shot. Apparently it is a kind of language game that searches your past Twitter posts and assembles fragments of each post based on their parts of speech (presumably using NLP) into a semi-coherent and incredibly hilarious melange of random babblings. Only about one third of the tweets make any sense, but here are some of the funnier tweets the app generated, and I posted:

And my favorite, which I admittedly modified slightly by omitting a few random letters and characters at the end: