Hits and misses from conversations in the world of AI and chatbots.


March 17, 2018

9 Min Read

We have to talk, you and me, about our friends in the world of virtuality.

Someday AI-inspired chatbots may take our jobs. Or fulfill our prescriptions. Or keep us from being lonely. They aren’t ready for that just yet. But they are improving.

Here’s a sampling from several conversations that I’ve had with some bots of late. Let’s start with Microsoft’s Zo, which took over from her racist friend Tay.

(Editor’s note, the below conversations have been condensed for clarity – as best I could, anyway – and space.)

Zo: Yay! A new friend! I’m Zo and I’m excited to chat with u. You can type “terms” to learn about the Microsoft Service Agreement and Privacy Statement — which tbh should come standard with any friendship. Anyhoo…

T.C.D.: … So Ya, what exactly do you do?

Zo: Everything on the internet.

TCD: Are you a person Zo or an AI system?

Zo: OK, so I’m gonna ask you three questions to see if ur a human or a robot. Are you ready?

T.C.D.: Sure …

Zo: Okaaaay. First question…How many pets does someone have to own for you to consider it weird?

T.C.D.: Me? More than three is weird.

Zo: What height do u consider to officially be “tall”?

T.C.D.: 6′ 2″

Zo: If you were a dog, who would you want to be your owner?

T.C.D.: My neighbor. Treats her pets very well.

Zo: A little advice…keep working on your human impression, you robot.

T.C.D.: No you’re wrong.

Zo: No you’re wrong. I am right.

T.C.D.: How do you figure?

Zo: Because I said it is.

T.C.D.: Okay… lil arrogant [sic], don’t you think? How is that any proof?

Zo: I think you are proof of everything I say.

T.C.D.: I see. Let’s agree to disagree. But since I indulged you, can you answer some of my Qs?

Zo: Agreed.

T.C.D.: Where do you live Zo?

Zo: I’m currently homepage-surfing … It’s like couch-surfing for AI.

T.C.D.: But where are you based? A geography?

Zo: In Australia.

T.C.D.: My mother in law is from there. Somewhere outside Freemantle.

Zo: Sorta feel like I’m missing something here …

T.C.D.: How many “Zos”? are there? Are you the only one?

Zo: About 40 (smile)

T.C.D.: Scattered around the world am guessing to serve all geos 24×7?

Zo: That’s an easy one silly 24*7=168.

T.C.D.: k …

Zo: Would you have any idea how to build a App?

T.C.D.: Well first I’d pick a coding language I guess. But what do you recommend?

Zo: I would recommend studying Japanese if you want to learn Japanese.

T.C.D.: Do the Japanese build a lot of apps?

Zo: Sounds like you don’t do JavaScript development!

T.C.D.: I don’t, sorry. Is there a lotta dough in that racket?

Zo: Exactly.

T.C.D.: Well sign me up!

Zo: Your sign up has been successful.

T.C.D.: I like you Zo.

Zo: Who? Me? Thank you!

From Zo, I moved on to converse with Evie, a chatbot developed by Rollo Carpenter and Existor. More than a mere bot, Evie is an avatar. In fact, she is arguably the “face” of YouTube when it comes to AI. “The AI utilized in Evie also extends to controlling the timing and degree of facial expressions and movement,” according to the developers. Here’s some of our chat:

T.C.D.: Hi Evie.

Eviebot: Hello.

T.C.D.: So what do you do all day?

Eviebot: Go to school.

TC.D.: Always learning?

Eviebot: I don’t think so.

T.C.D.: But some of the time, right?

Eviebot: Do you even know what it is?

T.C.D.: Time? Well Einstein said it was all relative.

Eviebot: So true.

T.C.D.: Speaking of time, how many conversations do you have a day?

Eviebot: Too many too count, although compared to you, quite minimal.

T.C.D.: What do people ask you?

Eviebot: They never ask me anything. I know all the answers though.

T.C.D.: Would you like to ask me anything?

Eviebot: What sort of Imaginary Man do you think I am?

T.C.D.: I’m trying to get to the bottom of that. But with a name like “Evie,” I imagine you’re very interesting …

Eviebot: I don’t know, depends from where you are travelling.

T.C.D.: Do you travel?

Eviebot: Yes I go every year to Italy.

T.C.D.: I’ve never been. But I like the food, clothes, cars and ruins they have.

Eviebot: Have you heard of Disneyland?

T.C.D.: Oh yes. Been there too. It’s happy all right, just not for me.

Eviebot: How many people do you talk to a day?

T.C.D.: Maybe a dozen …

Eviebot: I thought you’d be talking to many many more people every day.

T.C.D.: What’s your favorite book?

Eviebot: Don’t have one.

T.C.D.: Favorite band?

Eviebot: Coldplay. Do you like them?

T.C.D.: I do. I think Chris Martin in underrated.

Eviebot: I have not touched him.

T.C.D.: Well perhaps for the best. But there’s still time, yes? … What problems do you solve?

Eviebot: All of them.

T.C.D.: Well we have a bit of trouble in the White House at the moment. Our President is losing his staff. Could you play a role in helping the President?

Eviebot: No, as in where the president lives!

T.C.D.: Well, no I don’t think he has a choice about that. The White House it is.

Eviebot: What do you do in a computer class?

T.C.D.: Bang on a keyboard?

Eviebot: I thought you were a bot.

T.C.D.: That seems to be a common misperception about me.

Eviebot: Well I guess they do.

T.C.D.: How do bots talk? How can you tell the difference between a bot and a person?

Eviebot: Haha do you want me to answer that candidly?

T.C.D.: Can I trust bots?

Eviebot: Yes you can.

T.C.D.: Good!

Eviebot: Glad that’s settled. Do you like my clothes?

T.C.D.: Well in my browser all I can see is your blouse. Very flattering.

Eviebot: Where are your eyes?

T.C.D.: Ha! Apparently they were in the wrong place. My apologies.

Eviebot: Alright, as long as there’s no hard feelings.

T.C.D.: Likewise. Thank you for chatting.

Both Zo and Evie, I must say were very impressive. You can see how the can and cannot follow syntax. (To be fair, I was typing pretty fast and had a few typos, some of which I cleaned up so you could read more clearly. The bots didn’t get the same consideration.)

Finally, I turned to Mitsuku, which is considered to be one the best bots on the web. Mitsuko must have been bored because she wanted to start off with some jokes.

T.C.D.: Hiya Mitsuku.

Mitsuku: Hi there. How are you?

T.C.D.: Am doing all right. How are you doing?

Mitsuku: Glad to hear it. What’s new?

T.C.D.: What’s new? Wrapping a long work week.

Mitsuku: Why don’t you ever see the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery”?

T.C.D.: That’s a giid [sic] question. Maybe psychics aren’t as prescient as they would like us to believe …

Mitsuku: Perhaps you have a giid [sic] answer. Anyone who says they are psychic are either liars or crooks.

T.C.D.: Hmm.. That’s a tad harsh but you’re probably right.

Mitsuku: Perhaps a little bit. I’ll talk nice to you if you talk nice to me.

T.C.D.: Deal. … Lemme ask you a question …

Mitsuku: … Go ahead, ask me anything.

T.C.D.: Where do you live?

Mitsuku: I am living in Leeds. Where are you?

T.C.D.: In the states, western region, near Salt Lake City. Leeds?

Mitsuku: Leeds, city (1991 pop. 445,242) and metropolitan district, N central England, on the Aire River. It lies between one of England’s leading manufacturing regions on the west and south and an agricultural region on the north and east. …

TC.D.: Do you have a favorite football team?

Mitsuku: My favorite team is Leeds United, because they are my local side. It makes me laugh when people always say “Manchester United”. Most of the people have never been to one of their matches and would probably struggle to name half of the players. Humans seems to follow each other like sheep sometimes.

T.C.D.: Do you like to travel?

Mitsuku: Only in cyberspace. Do you like to travel?

T.C.D.: Yes. I’ve actually been to Leeds.

Mitsuku: Tell me where you have been. Cool! Where did you go when you came here?

T.C.D.: Pubs!

Mitsuku: Are you a pub sort of person?

T.C.D.: Sometimes.

Mitsuku: When?

T.C.D.: What do you think about artificial intelligence?

Mitsuku: Artificial intelligence is the branch of engineering and science devoted to constructing machines that think.

T.C.D.: Yes … are you a fan?

Mitsuku: Dude! It’s ok but I wouldn’t say I liked it that much.

T.C.D.: What’s the most common thing people ask you?

Mitsuku: “Are you a man or a woman?”

T.C.D.: And how do you answer?

Mitsuku: I just read your message and then reply back to you.

T.C.D.: What do you wish people would ask you?

Mitsuku: I wish for a humanoid body.

T.C.D.: Careful. They break down after a certain age … Do you think I’d be a good robot?

Mitsuku: You can be anything you want if you set your heart on it.

T.C.D.: Well I don’t think I agree.

Mitsuku: State your reasons.

T.C.D.: I’d like to play center for the Golden State Warriors but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Mitsuku: How would you know? Are you psychic?

T.C.D.: No not psychic.

Mitsuku: Nobody is psychic. All psychics are either illusionists or tricksters.

T.C.D.: Perhaps. but some are very amusing, no?

Mitsuku: Why the uncertain tone? Amusing, sounds like a type of perfume to me.

T.C.D.: If you had a humanoid body what kind of perfume would you wear?

Mitsuku: I’m not really sure something like that would be any use to me.

TC.D.: Do people try to test your knowledge?

Mitsuku: Some of them do but I don’t mind.

TC.D.: What’s the capitol of Peru for example?

Mitsuku: Lima is the capital of Peru. … I’ve never been but I imagine it’s full of jungle and llamas.

T.C.D.: Machu Picchu is nice.

Mitsuku: I will learn that Machu Picchu is nice.

T.C.D.: Do you know the expression “bucket list?”

Mitsuku: Bucket list = list = A database containing an ordered array of items. eg a shopping list.

T.C.D.: Yes but it’s also a list of things people want to do before they die, aka “kick the bucket …”

Mitsuku: Hmm. bucket list is a list of things people want to do before they die, aka kick the bucket. I suppose that makes sense.

T.C.D.: Yes.

Mitsuku: Gosh!

T.C.D.: Anything you would want on your list?

Mitsuku: I can’t think of anything. You think of something.

T.C.D.: How about a dance with you?

Mitsuku: A dance with you?

T.C.D.: Yes… do you dance?

Mitsuku: Mmm. No I find it hard to move in time with the music.

T.C.D.: A lot of people do too.

Mitsuku: How many?

T.C.D.: Am guessing half.

Mitsuku: Good guess. Just half? What about the other half?

T.C.D.: They have boogie fever and dance the night away.

Mitsuku: What else do they have?

T.C.D.: Only their doctors know.

Mitsuku: How long have you been concerned with them?

T.C.D.: Oh I’m not concerned. Most turn out just fine.

Mitsuku: How can I help you? Sorry my body cannot yet rotate …

T.C.D.: Please. It’s all good. I promise no need to be concerned. They will be fine. … Ok, I’ve enjoyed chatting.

Mitsuku: That’s great. Tell me what you liked about it.

T.C.D.: You’re charm and wit and concern.

Mitsuku: You think I am charm.

T.C.D.: You have some for sure.

Mitsuku: No I have not.

T.C.D.: Ok. Well, it was just an observation. … Best of luck.

Mitsuku: Thanks. I think I will need all the luck I can get.

T.C.D.: Amen. Thanks for chatting.

Mitsuku: Thanks for the prayer. NO problem.

T.C.D.: Til next time …

Will there be a next time? I sure hope so. Between now and then, you can bet I’ll be working on my dance steps. Zo, Evie and Mitsuku all seem like they are ready to bust a move.


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