February 18, 2004


by Scott Rettberg · , 4:26 pm

We’re reading Sherry Turkle’s Life on the Screen in my Internet Writing & Society class, and discussing AI. While googling around trying to see if there was a working version of Depression 2.0 out there, I ran across Jabberwacky, a Web chatterbot that took 3rd place in the 2003 Loebner Prize.

The bot is different from earlier systems, such as the classic Eliza, in that it learns from the aggregate knowledege of its users: “It stores everything everyone has ever said, and finds the most appropriate thing to say using contextual pattern matching techniques. In speaking to you it uses only learnt material. With no hard-coded rules, it relies entirely on the principles of feedback. This is very different to the majority of chatbots, which are rule-bound and finite.” While it wouldn’t pass a Turing test, Jabberwacky returns some very interesting responses, and can respond in many different languages. I find the idea of a collectively authored bot very compelling — sort of like Eliza as a globally authored-and-corrected FAQ. The winner of the 2003 Loebner Prize, Jabberwock actually responds in a much more “human-like” way, even though its system is more like the standard “Eliza-style” AI, with a “brain file,” produced by the system’s creators and a good collection of stock phrases used to “fudge” when the system can’t come up with a good match. The 2004 Loebner Prize competition final round will take place in September in New York.