June 8, 2005

Eliza into Art

by Nick Montfort · , 1:08 pm

Eliza Redux, by Adrianne Wortzel and Studio Blue at the Cooper Union, has just launched and is featured in the Turbulence Spotlight. The Eliza Redux site offers online access to a “a physical robot which, having passed the Turing test with flying colors, thinks it is a human psychoanalyst and persists in offering online pseudo- psychoanalytic sessions. … Peer consultation is available in the Reception Area as well as archived sessions and other reference materials.” Of course, the reference is to Eliza/Doctor, the 1964-1966 system Joseph Weizenbaum created at MIT. (Dennis has Charles Hayden’s implementation online – the same one we included in The New Media Reader and which is widely available for download.) Wortzel’s announcement reads, “In spite of the transparency of the program’s lack of intelligence, lab personnel were unable, or unwilling, to distinguish the machine from a human psychotherapist and became so dependent upon ELIZA for ‘therapeutic sessions’ that eventually Weizenbaum had to withdraw its use.”

I got to glimpse the physical being of Eliza Redux in a session just now, but didn’t hear any sound, and the communication process didn’t seem to be quite as meaningful (or to provide quite as much grist for the meaning-creating mind) as did the original. E2 kept its camera eye fixed at the spot where the empty couch was displayed, and constantly displayed what looked like Rorschach tests on a black-and-white display. What did I miss – anyone?