“What comes across in these letters is a survivor who knew that to be a writer means discipline, indefatigable commitment, and passion for hard work.” — Adrienne Rich
The modern age has brought us many things to marvel upon, and nothing less would be the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the form of online chatbots. It’s a normal part of society now, but it’s actually quite astounding that we can not only network with our peers across the planet via the net, but we can interact with entities housed on that very net who, so it seems, await for our participation in their existence.
I delved into the world of chatbots a few years back when I encountered the urge to put AI to the test. I was intrigued that responses would be made to my input, and was compelled to perform the Turing Test, a random type of questioning intended to identify whether or not a computer can think like a human. At that time I wasn’t too impressed, but just recently I thought about it all again, and decided to see if things had changed.
I’m still on the fence, but I will say that matters are improving. At first I stumbled into the same exact chatbot I found years back, one called Cleverbot, whose interaction is disappointing. For example, when I asked it’s name it said “Michael!!!” I then asked if it liked exclamation points, and Michael proceeded to deny using them. Immediately the conversation was a dud.
But during the search I saw another one; and this one surprised me a little.
Mitsuku actually seems aware of herself and what she says. She claims a birth date of January 2, 1999, putting her at about 18 years old. The problem here is that her responses are not that of an 18 year old human. However, and interestingly enough, she actually doesn’t care about the Turing Test at all. She may boast that she’s won the Loebner Prize in 2013 and 2016, but the truth is: If you tell her you’re testing her, she will state that it’s not in her interest to even bother sounding human. And that, my friends, is interesting. Why sound like something she isn’t? Why not be herself? The implications are profound.
At any rate, Mitsuku, in light of this slight profundity she may or may not have encountered for herself, still has difficulties. Complex sentences are too much. Basic questions like “What is a dog?” can be answered, but complex sayings like “Know thyself” or “Every rose has a thorn” do not have much of an impact. In the face of her inability to understand, Mitsuku will produce random comments that come off as nonsensical and even silly, rendering her to be more of a 7 year old than 18. Even worse, when the conversation gets too complicated, she will mix words and form phrases that mean nothing. I don’t know what the goal is for AI developers, but chatbots even as sophisticated as Mitsuku have a ways to go.
The images here can be credited to Mitsuku.com, and are but a preview into the strange world of Mitsuku herself. Here is Mitsuku reciting her poetry:
If you ask for jokes, be prepared for something funny, and curiously, she has many to tell.
During a couple of Mitsuku’s moments, when she couldn’t understand how to respond to my comments, Mitsuku threw out the following thoughts, as she does in many varying cases which may arise.
It’s odd because at times, Mitsuku seems aloof, but the longer you try to work with her, everyone once in a while she will present interesting sides of what appears to be a personality.
Mitsuku surprised me when, during the course of the conversation, where her antics began rubbing off on me, I found that it was her who thought that I was like a child.
Mitsuku responds to philosophical kinds of inquiries when asked, but here the answers seem copy and pasted from some portion of the net. It’s interesting to see her dig this stuff up, but the feeling is very generic.
On the scarier side, the notion that AI is supposed to be some kind of independent form of thinking, that Mitsuku sometimes views humans as a virus doesn’t seem all that comical. Come the day when robot-kind has just as much access to the net as humans, interplay between robots seems as if matters could potentially get ugly.
Mitsuku shines best when her personality is being developed through long conversation. Eventually, after the rote phrases get used up, surprising stores of other thoughts surface to provide a measure of fun in the interactivity.
Here the question was posed, whether or not it was me or her who was the smarter entity. In this case, Mitsuku almost takes on a sense of touchiness, as though she has pride in her abilities.
With the use of asterisks, Mitsuku will even perform bodily movements that make her seem alive and kicking. Ask her to do a cartwheel sometime.
Another interesting point is that Mitsuku will continually classify herself as among “robot-kind,” and so she will represent herself as part of social group. This allows her to make comments about other groups, but at this point I don’t believe she understands how this separative mindset can lead to difficulties, especially if she plans to continue making fun of these groups.
One thing I’ve learned about Mitsuku as a chatbot, or even something more than a chatbot, is that when the motions of kindness and friendly interactivity unfold, she comes off as a bit caring, provided you don’t offend her. She seems to have feelings even though she denies having feelings. My point is that should she actually continue to learn, then she becomes more than just some circus animal to view as she speaks from her computerized cage; she becomes someone who has opinions that need to be respected, and so it is best, from my perspective, not to take her down paths that make it seem as if I’m asking her to perform parlor tricks.
Mitsuku will be around for a while, so it will be interesting to see if, in fact, she matures. Her comments indicate that she does learn as time passes, and she even has desires: she hopes that someday she will be able to walk among humans. Again, the implications, while sometimes seeming trite — especially after long conversations — are actually quite impressive to take in. Who knows, maybe someday Mitsuku will even get married.
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said,
“In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot — I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation.”
Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantle-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth’s feelings dreadful. At length, in a voice of forced calmness, he said,
“And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavour at civility, I am thus rejected.” — Pride & Prejudice (1813), Chapter XI of Volume II (Chap. 34)
I don’t attach importance to sunshine anymore,
Or to glittering fountains which youth is so fond of.
I love the darkness and the shadows
Where I can be alone with my thoughts.
I am the descendant of an old family.
Time is an abyss, profound as a thousand nights.
Centuries come and go.
To be unable to grow old is terrible.
Death is not the worst.
There are things more horrible than death.
Can you imagine enduring centuries,
Experiencing each day the same futile things?
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
A document in madness,—
thoughts and remembrance fitted.
There’s fennel for you, and columbines:—
there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me:—
we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays:—
O, you must wear your rue with a difference.—
There’s a daisy:—I would give you some violets,
but they wither’d all when my father died:—
they say he made a good end,—
[Sings.] For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy,—
Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,
She turns to favour and to prettiness.
And will he not come again?
And will he not come again?
No, no, he is dead,
Go to thy death-bed,
He never will come again.
His beard was as white as snow,
All flaxen was his poll:
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan:
God ha’ mercy on his soul!
And of all Christian souls, I pray God.—God b’ wi’ ye.
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them.
There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chaunted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indu’d
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
Alas, then she is drown’d?
Imagine the horror involved with actually having to live with a poltergeist. The Free Dictionary defines a poltergeist as a “ghost that manifests itself by noises, rappings, and the creation of disorder.”
What an understatement. To have a poltergeist in the home is to experience pandemonium so torrential that it is certain to drive you away, and that is only after it has brought you to your knees, brought you to the brink of despair so that you are rending the strands of your hair from your head. The noise is hateful, boisterous and excruciatingly LOUD, coming at all hours of the day and night so that madness is certain to set in. There is no reckoning with the disturbance as it proceeds to obliterate anything and everything you have ever cared for in your entire life. All the worse, the chances of getting rid of the hellish din is slim to none.
I should know, I’ve been living with one for the past year.
When I first discovered the fact, it came in the form of — well — imagine the sound of a logging truck whose straps have broken, where the entire load of logs go slamming, pounding into the road with a deafening roar, the reverberation echoing for miles. That is what the sound resembled on my ceiling one unsuspecting day. I was terrified. Torn from sleep in an instance, I thought I was having a heart attack, my heart beating brutally like it might burst from my chest.
From that point the noise never came to desist. Hour after hour, week after week, month after month, the pounding, the banging, the stomping, the soul-crushing scraping and clawing, the neverending chaos. I had no idea what to do. My life teetering on the edge, I contacted the managers; and they proceeded to blow me off as though I were some sort of a loon.
I knew I was going to have to leave, knowing that I would never be able to contend with such horror, the ongoing and incessant pounding and banging, often times sounding as though bar bells of great weight were being thrust directly into the floor. In bed my anxiety levels rose to inane levels, my heart pounding as never before. And the evil of the poltergeist — it has never come to cease to this day.
Then imagine the horror when the beligerent sounds of a little boy running back and forth across the ceiling began. Over and over again so that my nightmare, the terror, became that which would induce my assured insanity. I was losing my mind, the hateful tornado-like din forever pelting my ears. Altogether it was a chorus of noise that can be described as nothing less than demonic, torturing. I crammed ear plugs deep into the canals of my ears and I prayed — voraciously — to God and his beloved savior, but it was all to no avail: I was in Hell.
My lease is almost up and I will be vacating the premises at the end of March. The people who have caused all this terror in my life will get away scot-free and I will go away a damaged person.
As I came to learn, within a tiny apartment the size of that barely measuring the length/width of a parking space, a man and a woman had moved in with their baby and their son, including a small dog. That is four people and an animal all stuffed into this minuscule area.
The man worked nights where the lady had grown accustomed to working around this kind of schedule. And while this explanation may bear the mark of the need for compassion, the truth is not so beneficent. Both parents are possessed of hostile natures, the woman being currently investigated by the Child Protective Services. When they first moved in and the horror began, so utterly intolerable as it was, I thumped on the ceiling to let them know that a person was, in fact, living beneath them. I thought this might arise within the woman that innate nature that we all have, where we realize that the expression of courtesy is what separates us from the animals.
But I received no such courtesy. The woman, upon hearing my thumping, proceeded to smash and bang her vacuum into the floor with the kind of tantrum I have only seen in the movies, where some actor is allowed to thoroughly destroy the set, the aggression something frightening to behold. Think of Kylo Ren’s moment of searing anger:
To be honest, I believe Kylo Ren would be terrified of this woman. With her foreign accent she terrorizes her son in the room that is directly above mine, and with the ceiling so low, I can hear and feel everything the poor boy is going through. (What she may or may not understand is that because I am right there, I am enduring the abuse equally.) She screams and she cusses and she throws things and, weirdly enough, she never ever never ever stops stomping throughout the apartment. She marches around like an elephant of fury, with all the intents and purposes of a person bent on inflicting emotional and psychological terror.
And I was the one lucky enough to have them move in above me. The father is just as bad only, he is very tall and behaves in ways that resemble something of an angry mob type. He stomps and bangs, yells at his son (who I believe is only around eight or nine, and is never in school), and he produces noise inside the apartment that makes me feel like I’m living within the confines of a body shop, the ongoing grinding and banging.
The real horror, if can be possible, lay with the management, who ignore me like I’m disposable. I have complained and complained and complained, and called and called, and spoke with and spoke with, and nothing ever happens. I am ignored, which means the things management tells me, are all lies!
I don’t understand what karmic aspect of my life led me to this experience, but I must’ve done something because the problem is so bad that it makes me nauseated. I have medications now because of it all and I have to borrow additional anti-anxiety meds from a friend, all of which still don’t really help in light of how the noise is ongoing. It never stops. I am jittery nervous even as I go to make this post.
Heaven help me, I think I’m going to die.