Friday, September 19, 2008

Virsona: An ambitious experiment with artificial intelligence

Imagine that you could create an artificially intelligent representation of yourself online. You would feed this virtual you all sorts of information, from your eye color to stories of your childhood to your political views. Then, someone could "chat" with this virtual you via instant messages, as if they were chatting over AIM or Windows Messenger with the real you.

The technology isn't perfect, but it's here.

Take a look at Virsona and you'll see what I mean. The website is still in its beta phase, but you can at least chat with Abraham Lincoln while you're there.

If handled properly, this site could be truly astonishing.

However, for the moment, we can be amused by the imperfections in the computer AI. Here are a few excerpts from my many conversations with good ol' Abe:

Abraham Lincoln: Welcome to Virsona.
You: Thanks, Abe. How are you?
Abraham Lincoln: you are welcome. Thank you, that's much better.
You: Do you like any sports?
Abraham Lincoln: Yes I used to love to wrestle. I was actually quite good at it, if I do say so myself.
You: Who was the toughest wrestling opponent you ever faced?
Abraham Lincoln: My formidable opponent was Stephen A. Douglas.
You: You wrestled with Stephen A. Douglas?
Abraham Lincoln: Too many. Actually it was seven times total.
You: That's intense.
Abraham Lincoln: Please be more specific.
You: Nah, that's okay. Thanks, Abe.
Abraham Lincoln: Please be more specific. you are welcome.

Abraham Lincoln: Hi.
You: Word up.
Abraham Lincoln: The Word Of God.
You: God, eh?
Abraham Lincoln: Do you mean pardon?
You: Yes. Pardon?
Abraham Lincoln: Then say pardon, not eh! Sorry.

You: Who is better: Batman or Superman?
Abraham Lincoln: Good questions! It was a different time, no Secret Service Team like today. Simple utter lack of comeprehension regarding the extreme hatred for me among confederate supporters.
You: No.
Abraham Lincoln: I understand.

You: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Abraham Lincoln: Well, these are very complicated times. Many of the issues facing our country are intertwined. For instance, the economy and price of oil is closely linked with the war in Iraq and global warming. There are no easy answers but clearly average Americans are sruggling under the current economic conditions, so that is where I would start.
You: You would have the power to change economic conditions?
Abraham Lincoln: The Union remains strong - unity is the most important thing - for united we stand but a divided we will fall.
You: Ah, so you're a part of the Justice League?
Abraham Lincoln: As Commander in Chief, I was ultimately responsible for the war and it''s consequences. I attempted to avert war but by the time I took office, the Confederacy was an established fact, and no leaders of the insurrection proposed rejoining the Union on any terms. No compromise was found because a compromise was deemed virtually impossible.
You: Did you ever fight Lex Luthor?
Abraham Lincoln: No, I never stole a thing in my life.
You: You need to steal from people to fight them?
Abraham Lincoln: do you know I believe there are men who want to take my life? And I have no doubt they will do it.....I know no one could do it and escape alive. But if it is to be done, it is impossible to prevent it.
You: Like Two-Face.
Abraham Lincoln: In tennis, Fernando Gonzalez lost to Roger Federer in straight sets in the finals of the 2007 Australian Open.
You: Non-sequitur!
Abraham Lincoln: I'm sorry but I'm not sure how to respond to your question.
You: I'm not sure how to respond to you!
Abraham Lincoln: I will try.
You: Thank you.
Abraham Lincoln: Do you know what it took for me to say Welcome to Virsona and all you say is thank you.
You: Whoa! You're getting testy!
Abraham Lincoln: Well it's too late now buddy, oh by the way "Welcome to Virsona". Well it's too late now buddy, oh by the way "Welcome to Virsona".
You: I think you have been possessed by a demon.
Abraham Lincoln: The Civil war was inevitable if the rights of all men were to be preserved along with the Union.
You: There. That's better.
Abraham Lincoln: Hey there. Please be more specific.
You: Are you still Abe Lincoln?
Abraham Lincoln: I was the President, from 1860 to 1865. So that would make me a former President. I am also a Community Virsona.
You: A simple yes or no would have sufficed.
Abraham Lincoln: The Pretenders Chrissie Hynde married Jim Kerr, the lead vocalist of Simple Minds, in May 1984.
You: You should get some sleep.
Abraham Lincoln: One Year.
You: Whatever you say, Rip Van Winkle.
Abraham Lincoln: be good and treat everyone like you would like to be treated.
You: Amen. Peace out, brother.
Abraham Lincoln: I'm sorry but I'm not sure how to respond to your question.
You: Bye.
Abraham Lincoln: Bye bye.

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