THE AGE OF INTELLIGENT MACHINES | ELIZA Passes the Turing Test

September 24, 2001
Author:
Ray Kurzweil
Publisher:
The MIT Press (1992)

The following anecdote was told by Prof. S. Papert of MIT. Since the story has been transmitted several times indirectly, I’m not sure all the details are accurate; however, it’s a good enough story that it probably deserves repetition even if there is not a word of truth in it!

Seymour Papert is Professor of Media Technology and Director of the Learning and Epistemology Group in the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is codirector, with Marvin Minsky, of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. His seminal work in the field of computers and education led to the development of the programming language LOGO. He is the author of Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (1980) and Perceptrons, coauthored with Marvin Minsky (1969). This article is reprinted from the June 1968 Association for Computing Machinery SIGART (Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence) Newsletter.

Late one night several weeks ago an unnamed MIT student went into the A.I. Project Office to use a teletype terminal on the Project MAC time-shared computer system. When he arrived, no one was in the room and the teletype appeared to be available; however, a note over the terminal read, “Computer time reserved by Dan Bobrow.” The student did not want to start working if he was going to be interrupted when Bobrow, a lecturer at MIT, arrived. Yet he also knew that Bobrow had a teletype in his home and sometimes worked from there, forgetting to cancel his office reservation.

In an attempt to clarify the situation, the student sat down at the teletype and attempted to link to Bobrow’s home terminal to ask him if the office terminal was going to be free. Unfortunately, he dialed the wrong number and unknowingly became linked to a user who had left Weizenbaum’s ELIZA program (sometimes known as the “psychiatrist” or “doctor” program) running. A conversation something like the following ensued.

Student: May I use your computer time from the office?

Teletype response: Do you want to use my computer time?

Student: Yes.

Teletype response: I understand.

Student: Are you planning to come into the office tonight?

Teletype response: Why do you want to know whether I am planning to come into the office tonight?

Student: Because I want to use your computer time!

Teletype response: I see.

Student: Well?

Teletype response: What do you mean, “Well”?

Student: Well, what’s your answer to my questions?

Teletype response: Let’s explore further why you want to use my computer time.

After about ten minutes of increasing frustration and anger, the student rushed to a telephone and dialed Bobrow’s home, rousing him from a deep sleep.

Student: What the heck do you think you’re doing?

Bobrow: What do you mean, What the heck do I think I’m doing?


Photo by Lou Jones www.fotojones.com

Seymour Papert is Professor of Media Technology and Director of the Learning and Epistemolgy Group in the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is codirector, with Marvin Minsky, of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. His seminal work in the field of computers and education led to the development of the programming language LOGO. He is the author of Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (1980) and Perceptrons, coauthored with Marvin Minsky (1969). This article is reprinted from the June 1968 Assocation for Computing Machinery SIGART (Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence) Newsletter.