March 22, 2005

Intelligent Artifice

Although I have never really been a fan of text-based adventure games, I found Collosal Cave Adventure pretty amusing - until I had to start playing on my own, without Dr. Jerz's hints and clues. I suddenly remembered the reason why I never jumped on the adventure game train: my brain just doesn't like to get frustrated.

I know that is a bit defeatist of me, but as far as I'm concerned, games are supposed to be fun. When I type the command "go in" I want to go inside the building, not be told that I have to use the synonym "enter" in order to "go in." I know I am picking at details, and that those subtle programming glitches should not affect the adventure aspect of the game, but they do for me. I get frustrated in a world where "enter" does not mean the same as "go in."

I also found Eliza pretty frustrating. The first chatterbox, Eliza is supposed to imitate a psychiatrist and help guide the typer through his/her problems. The main problem, however, is that Eliza does not actually comprehend what is being told to her. She is programmed to respond to very few cues, only occasionally responding correctly, and very often takes the typer on a very frustrating journey:

>> Hello.
How do you do. Please state your problem.
>> I am unhappy
I am sorry to hear that you are unhappy.
>> thank you
We were discussing you -- not me.
>> ok
I'm not sure I understand you fully.
>> I am unhappy
Do you think coming here will help you not to be unhappy ?
>> yes
You seem to be quite positive.
>> I suppose so
You say you suppose so ?
>> yes
You are sure.
>> yes
I see.
>> do you?
Oh, I ?
>> yes
I understand.
>> what do you understand?
Why do you ask ?
>> because I no longer understand

This brief exchange shows that Eliza is less of a mechanized psychiatrist and more of an automated Socratic respondent. Amanda mentions that recent chatterboxes have become so well programmed that the typer can be fooled into believing it is a real person. I found this reminiscent of Metropolis in that the workers all believed Robot-Maria to be the real thing. Can machines act as a substitute for human interaction and skill, or will they eventually dominate us as the robots in RUR succeeded in doing? Where is our relationship with technology headed, and can we form a symbiotic relationship with machines?

Posted by JohannaDreyfuss at March 22, 2005 11:00 AM | TrackBack
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