Humanosity says…Imagine thinking that you’re chatting up a real person online only to find out that you’ve been flirting with a computer or more specifically a computer programme. It seems that the future may already be here.
Robert Epstein was looking for love. The year being 2006, he was looking online. As he recounted in the journal Scientific American Mind, he began a promising email exchange with a pretty brunette in Russia. Epstein was disappointed – he wanted more than a penfriend, let’s be frank – but she was warm and friendly. Soon she confessed she was developing a crush on him.
“I have very special feelings about you. In the same way as the beautiful flower blossoming in my soul… I only cannot explain… I shall wait for your answer, holding my fingers have crossed…”
Even though the correspondence continued for, after a while he began to notice a few anomalies. Ivana never responded directly to his questions, always weaving in a story about liking him, talking to her mother or walks in the park.
Suspicious. he sent a message composed of gibberish. She replied with an email about her mother. The penny dropped. Ivana was a chatbot.
What makes the story surprising is not that a Russian chatbot managed to trick a lonely middle-aged Californian man. It is that the man who was tricked was one of the founders of the Loebner Prize, an annual test of artificial conversation in which computers try to fool humans into thinking that they, too, are human.
In other words, one of the world’s top chatbot experts had spent two months trying to seduce a computer program.