NOTD: Meet Eliza

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Eliza Chatbot Wiki Image
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

You’ve probably heard of ChatGPT, a computer program that is trained to follow your instruction and provide a variety of wide ranging responses. As someone that has spent some time actually using the AI, I have to say, the results it produces can be eerily human but, did you know that computer scientists have been working alongside chatbots as early as the 1960s?

Weizenbaum Wiki Image Two
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Author: Journalist Ulrich Hansen
February 11, 2005

It was the late 1960’s and Joseph Weizenbaum, an MIT computer scientist, had just completed work on his revolutionary chatbot ELIZA. Weizenbaum was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1923 and fled the country with his family in 1935 to escape the political turmoil. Weizenbaum came to the United States where his road to computer science would ultimately begin. After time spent in the Air Force, Weizenbaum would go on to study as a computer scientist and eventually work in the industry. You have to remember, computers at that time were not portable devices that could fit in our pockets. In fact, they often barely fit into a room! As an associate Professor at MIT, Weizenbaum became obsessed with the way computers could directly interact with humans through language. It was this early through line between computers and human language that would work to lay the foundation for his own chatbot and eventually lay the groundwork for the AI development of programs such as ChatGPT, Siri and Alexa.

Eliza was completed in 1966 and Weizenbaum offered MIT students the opportunity to interact with the chatbot. This process consisted of messages typed into the computer by students and, responses would then be provided by ELIZA, […] routed to an electronic typewriter and printer. Weizenbaum was initially happy with the response that was garnered from users’ experience with ELIZA but, there was one thing he did begin to notice that he viewed as considerably concerning. Overtime, Weizenbaum made note of users starting to divulge deep personal information, looking for help similar to that of a therapy session. This observation ended up pushing Weizenbaum to advocate for caution when relying too heavily on computers for human thought…

“There are aspects to human life that a computer cannot understand—cannot. It’s necessary to be a human being. Love and loneliness have to do with the deepest consequences of our biological constitution. That kind of understanding is in principle impossible for the computer.”

Professor Weizenbaum

New York Times
Lee Dembart
May 8, 1977

Meet Eliza: The 60s Chatbot That Set The Groundwork For ChatGPT
Jordan Neese
June 30, 2023

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6 thoughts on “NOTD: Meet Eliza

    Badfinger (Max) said:
    July 17, 2023 at 10:13 AM

    Really cool info… it’s gone way too far now….and the genie is out of the bottle. A lawyer the other day got into trouble using the chat thing for a case.
    We have used it for scripts here.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 17, 2023 at 12:52 PM

      All this fear over AI. Boggles my mind. AI is coding, nothing more. It can work faster than humans can, yes and simulate conversation but, sentience? There is not a soul in this Universe that would want to be stuck in the internal, dark world of 0s & 1s. No sunlight. No food. No other human interaction except speech? Programs are programs. Human souls are human souls. I don’t even think a planetary-sized soul would find that appealing.

      Sorry. I am babbling. With the rise of AI, I am constantly comparing that to the Chris Thomas material. Artificial intelligence…is just that…artificial. No eternal soul…

        Badfinger (Max) said:
        July 17, 2023 at 1:01 PM

        Well it goes further than that. AI is not just a chat deal…it’s AI robots…cashiers and servers just to mention a couple of things…you pay for the robot and over time it’s much cheaper than humans. Japan is doing this now. That is the part I don’t like.
        Hell now they have an AI disc jockeys… I dont’ like losing the personal connection.
        I like the chatbox…good for solving problems.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          July 17, 2023 at 1:08 PM

          Well, yeah…self-contained coding inside whatever apparatus. It can mimic human voices or “sound” like a movie robot. They have their uses. I am certainly not interested in interacting with any of them if possible. Bing has a chatbot that annoys the fuck out of me. I shut it off in the browser every time.

    doerfpub said:
    July 23, 2023 at 5:36 PM

    Now that is a blast from the past. I remember learning about Eliza in one of my early computer classes (think Massive Parallel Data Structures, but can’t remember for sure now that I am retired ha). So far what I’ve seen of ChatGPT I am not too excited, especially since there are multiple examples of it just making references up.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      July 24, 2023 at 9:11 PM

      I wasn’t old enough to remember Eliza. I do remember CANDE terminals in college, connected to their mainframe. Had fun on a punchcard machine.

      I will NEVER interact with an AI, if I can help it. Just not going there. As nice as Majel Barrett’s voice is, this ain’t Star Trek.

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