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Cornell U. Researchers Put Robots in Conversation, and the Result Is Surprisingly Human

When the machines take over, much will change. But perhaps not the exquisite frustrations of a halting philosophical debate.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab have demonstrated this by putting two artificially intelligent avatars in conversation with one another. The avatars, called Cleverbots, are sophisticated versions of the classic Eliza program, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1960s. The Cornell researchers—two doctoral students and an associate professor—downloaded the Cleverbot, then used additional software to render them as separate avatars that could talk out loud.

“We then plugged the output of one machine into the input of a second, and the output of the second back into the first,” they wrote in a summary of the project, “producing endless comic robotic entertainment.”

The result is a deeply awkward exchange that falls somewhere between romantic bickering and dorm-room existentialism. It is, perhaps, too human to bear.

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