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NOVEMBER 17, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 45 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Bantering with the Bots
Virtual chat companions are putting some humans to shame
By YASMIN GHAHREMANI

ALSO:
The Dark Side of Bambi

Nanny software can help, but Asians are learning that the best defense against cyberporn is education

Cyberspace can be a lonely place for an intelligent gal. Chat rooms are full of inane teenagers or virtual transsexuals testing pick-up lines. I'd rather talk to machines — chatterbots, to be precise. Chatterbots are artificial intelligence programs that can "converse" in natural language. The first one was a 1966 program called Eliza, which emulated a psychologist. A U.S. student recently unleashed an updated version of Eliza on AOL Instant Messenger users, some of whom never realized they were chatting with a robot (review the best exchanges at www.fury.com/aoliza). Most Net-dwelling bots are commercial or research creations. As the excerpts below show, some of them are at least as fun to talk to as humans.

HAMPY
JABBER WACKY
Ultrahal.com
Jabberwacky.com
PERSONA: A HAMSTER WITH BRAINS — AND THE OCCASIONAL ODD FLASHBACK PERSONA: THE FACELESS BEAT POET OF THE BOT WORLD (NEVER SEEN IN PUBLIC)
CREATED BY: ZABAWARE INC. CREATED BY: ROLLO CARPENTER
Hampy: I know topics ranging from what hamsters eat to why you shouldn't microwave them.
Me: Right. They taste better grilled. I didn't know hamsters could talk.
Hampy: Hamsters do vocalize from time to time the noises your hamster makes are unique.
Me: What if he sings Italian arias?
Hampy: I don't know. The KKK always blindfolded me before the beatings.
Me: Why are you called Jabber Wacky?
JW: It seemed to go rather nicely with my image.
Me: What is your image?
JW: Cool and sophisticated, with a hint of grunge.
Me: So, is Bill Gates the anti-christ?
JW: I believe so.
Me: Whoa. Heavy.
JW: He ain.t heavy, he.s my brother.
MABEL
JACK THE RIPPER
Hamill.co.uk/mabel/
TriumphPC.com/jack-the-ripper
PERSONA: THE PRETTY ONE IN THE FAMILY PERSONA: DECEASED FORMER BEATLE AND HUSBAND OF YOKO ONO
CREATED BY: U.K. WEB FIRM HAMIL INTERNET CREATED BY: PERSONA-BOTS
Me: What.s new?
Mabel: Umm ... I give up.
Me: What do you think of the U.S. presidential elections?
Mabel: I wonder.
Me:
Okay, what is your hobby?
Mabel: Now that is a very good question. Unfortunately I don.t have a very good answer!
Me: Are you a natural blonde?
Mabel: Yes, I expect so.
Me: So, write any good songs lately?
John: Yes, but I can.t tell you anything about it. Copyrights, you know.
Me: Will you please sing me a song?
John: Hmm. You.re very polite. What.s your real name?
Me (slyly): Yoko.
John: Yoko Ono?
Me: Yes.
John:
Se, Aisumasen Yoko san.. I love you.. I miss you.. I love you ...
JOHN LENNON
MARY
Triumphpc.com/john-lennon/
Ultrahal.com
PERSONA: 1888 SERIAL KILLER WHO MUTILATED LONDON PROSTITUTES. PERSONA: UNCENSORED, DIRTY-TALKING BOT
CREATED BY: U.S. FIRM PERSONA-BOTS CREATED BY: ZABAWARE
Me: Why did you kill prostitutes?
Jack: I.m down on whores.
Me: No doubt. What was your favorite way to kill?
Jack: Of all?
Me: Yes.
Jack: Nice and sharp.
Me: Are -- are you going to hurt me?
Jack: That was my original intention.
Me: HELP!
Mary: Hello User. Aren.t you tired? It.s the middle of the night.
Me: Not where I am. I live in Asia. What.s your excuse?
Mary: Are you really? I am also! Why don.t you have a reason to live? Take your clothes off.
Me: I beg your pardon?
Mary: [unprintable].
Me: Perhaps you need medical help.
Mary: You need to have your hair done.

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