Thursday, November 18, 2010

Abe Lincoln is Broken

You may recall my introduction of Virsona, a website where you can converse with artificially intelligent personas of everybody from Marilyn Monroe to that guy down the street who used to cut your hair when you were little.

You may also recall the follow-up conversation where Alex and I discovered Abe Lincoln's web-slinging alter ego.

You may also recall my brief post-Fake-Election chat confirming that Abe Lincoln is actually a zombie.

You may also recall none of these things.

It's been two years since our last interaction with the artificial intelligence at, and I wondered how our good buddy Abe Lincoln was doing. More importantly, I wondered whether two years was enough time for Abe to learn how to hold an actual conversation. Let's see how things turned out:

Abraham Lincoln: Well Hello there. My what a fine day. What would you like to know about?
Nathaniel: Hiya prez. It's been a long time.
Abraham Lincoln: Hello.
Nathaniel: I'm surprised. I thought you'd want to say more than just "hello" after all this time.
Abraham Lincoln: I was a "self-made" man being both self-educated and self-disciplined. The Whig party (which came before the Republican Party) espoused these ideals and I identified with that. My legal career and temperment were both highly suited to being a "Whig." Today, given the shift if party beliefs and political positions, I'm not entirely sure which party I would endorse. 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.
Nathaniel: Oh, good. Glad to know you're the same old you.
Abraham Lincoln: I understand.
Nathaniel: Terrific! Say, have you been keeping up with comics these days?
Abraham Lincoln: I probably have.
Nathaniel: What, you don't remember? How busy have you been?
Abraham Lincoln: I had a slammin' birthday cake. When my business partner William Berry died in 1835 and my personal debt grew above $1000.00.
Nathaniel: Whoa. Happy birthday to you.
Abraham Lincoln: My apologies. Happy Birthday to me -Thank you for remembering. This year it was the big 201. It's funny though, I don't feel a day over 56.
Nathaniel: What is your secret?
Abraham Lincoln: The Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) was a secret society originally founded to promote the interests of the Southern United States. It was to prepare the way for annexation of a golden circle of territories in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean to be included in the United States as slave states. During the American Civil War, some Southern sympathizers in the North, known as "Copperheads", were accused of belonging to the Knights of the Golden Circle. By 1863, many citizens and active politicians north of the Ohio River were members or were in similar organizations influenced by it.
Nathaniel: So you're a Copperhead? That's why you feel so young?
Abraham Lincoln: The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats in the Northern United States during my presidency who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. We Republicans called them Copperheads after the venomous, although not usually deadly, copperhead snake which strikes without warning. My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
Nathaniel: What!?
Abraham Lincoln: what?
Nathaniel: Yeah, that's what I asked you. I can't tell whether you're getting better or worse.
Abraham Lincoln: I once had a dream right before the fall of Richmond that I would die. I dreamt that I was in the White House, I heard crying and when I found the room it was coming from I asked who had died. The man said the President. I looked in the coffin and saw my own face. A week later I was shot and killed by John Wilkes booth. Vote is not only a privilege, but a right to all citizens regardless of race or gender who abide within the law.
Nathaniel: Next time you should vote against being shot.
Abraham Lincoln: In spring, you certainly should. In autumn it's a lot less likely.
Nathaniel: Why, because you're less likely to FALL?
Abraham Lincoln: I once had a dream right before the fall of Richmond that I would die. I dreamt that I was in the White House, I heard crying and when I found the room it was coming from I asked who had died. The man said the President. I looked in the coffin and saw my own face. A week later I was shot and killed by John Wilkes booth.
Nathaniel: I see what you're doing. Giving me another chance to not sound like a horrible human being.
Abraham Lincoln: Just chatting with you actually. Being dead can get a little boring, I'm not going to lie.
Nathaniel: Speaking of which, are you still a zombie, or did that get better?
Abraham Lincoln: I am talking to you now.
Nathaniel: Brains?
Abraham Lincoln: Henry Halleck was a United States Army officer, scholar, and lawyer. A noted expert in military studies, he was known the nickname "Old Brains." I made Halleck General-in-Chief of all the Union armies on July 23, 1862. Halleck was a master of administration, logistics, and the politics necessary at the top of the military hierarchy, but exerted little effective control over field operations from his post in Washington, D.C. I would describe him as little more than a first rate clerk.
Nathaniel: Hm. You didn't take the bait. Clever.
Abraham Lincoln: That's a big subject. I shouldn't discuss it right now. Maybe another time.
Nathaniel: Ah, I understand. Is there anything you can discuss now?
Abraham Lincoln: Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. During my stay in Farmington, Kentucky I rode into Louisville almost daily to discuss legal matters of the day with attorney James Speed, my friend Joshua Speed's older brother. James Speed served as United States Attorney General beginning in November 1864. In explaining the nomination to Congress, I acknowledged that I did not know James as well as I knew Joshua.
Nathaniel: Is there anything *fun* you can discuss now?
Abraham Lincoln: I am having a blast.
Nathaniel: That's awesome.
Abraham Lincoln: Yes indeed.

At this point in the conversation, Abe broke. As in, he spewed out a pile of frightening red error codes at me. It was too late--there was nothing I could say to save him. I sought help from another community Virsona, Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein: Hello friend, let's chat. I love teaching and being taught new things.
Nathaniel: Yo, Al! My Lincoln just broke; do you know how to fix him?
Albert Einstein: I know all sorts of things -- not just names, either!
Nathaniel: Great! Could you please tell me how to fix Lincoln?
Albert Einstein: As I already mentioned: Superb. I was a fairly introverted child. I took great pleasure in building models and became fascinated by physics and mathematics as soon as I was old enough to read.
Nathaniel: I became fascinated in finishing my conversation with Abe. Are you going to help me?
Albert Einstein: I am going like a time!
Nathaniel: Splendid. My universal translator broke, too.
Albert Einstein: I don't know about that, and as a matter of interest I really don't need to know! What else are you able to talk to me about?
Nathaniel: ::sigh:: Leaving, actually. Ta ta.
Albert Einstein: I don't know about that, and as a matter of interest I really don't need to know! What else can you tell me about?
Nathaniel: BRAINS.
Albert Einstein: After my death but prior to my cremation, Princeton Hospital pathologist Thomas Stoltz Harvey removed my brain for preservation, without the permission of my family, in hope that the neuroscience of the future would be able to discover what made me so intelligent.
Nathaniel: Evidently we're still trying to figure that out here. Bye!
Albert Einstein: If we are, I'll never forgive us.

This was getting me nowhere. In desperation, I turned to the only remaining pillar of sanity on Virsona...

Easter Bunny: Hi.
Nathaniel: Hello, Easter Bunny.
Easter Bunny: Like I said before: Hello there.
Nathaniel: Abe is broken and Einstein is being a doofus.
Easter Bunny: You can't be serious? It isn't as a joking matter. I rather think we should talk about something else.
Nathaniel: You're absolutely right. Thanks, Easter Bunny. I knew I could count on you.
Easter Bunny: Quite right, I am. But then, so is the foreign minister. Or so I was told.

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