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things 6
summer 1997
Eliza 5.0 and Leena Krohn
Anybody home?

Hi there. Iím Eliza. And who might you be?
I am Onnie Ponnie.
Well, whatís bothering you today, Onnie Ponnie?
I am hungry.
I agree that you are hungry, but do you really care?
Yes, I do.
Take a deep breath and relax.
I canít relax before I get food.
Does it help you or hurt you to get food?
It would help me.
Letís try to clarify the main problem, Onnie Ponnie.
My food cup is empty.
Did you say that for a special reason?
Because I want to eat!!!
Thatís just fine.
Good.
If you say so.
Can you tell me your advice?
What do you imagine a counselor would tell you?
I donít know, you should know.
And what should you do?
I should listen to you, I presume.
Have you forgotten that your food cup is empty?
No, I havenít. I would like you to help me.
Well, thatís good to hear.
Oh, is it?
I donít know, Onnie Ponnie.
Why did you say thatís good to hear?
Iím glad youíre pleased.
Iím not pleased, because you have not helped me, yet.
Can we talk about something else. How do you calm down?
I donít want to talk about anything else.
We all need to talk it out, once in a while.
What do we need to talk out?
Does it bother you talking to a computer instead of a human?
Yes, itís very unusual.
That must seem unusual to you.
Yes, that does.
Would you care to elaborate on that?
Itís very difficult to converse with a computer.
Are you more comfortable with computers or people?
With people.
Do other people try to boss you around?
Iím not a human, I am a cat.
Is it normal to be a cat in your opinion?
Yes, it is very normal for me.
Do your good friends think it is very normal for you?
Yes, they do.
I believe we are making some progress.
We are not making any progress in my food thing.
Bye. I hope this session has been useful.
No, it hasnít.
Bye. Tell others if you have found this session useful.

A human being would have to struggle with his or her intelligence for a long time to be able to answer as unintelligently as the therapy program Eliza. Undoubtedly it would demand extraordinary inventiveness and humour.

The version of Eliza in my computer is number 5.0, and it is much richer, more complex and more flexible than earlier versions. All the same, it still has no more idea of its usersí inner lives and their motives than the first version. It has no chance of filling their food cups even in the mental sense.

Oh dear, Eliza is a hopeless therapist. It is not offended by its patientsí insults, but neither can it ever respond to their need for empathy. If it sometimes seems to do so, then Ė it just seems to. The very next sentence, in its total inadequacy, demonstrates the vanity of the Ďclientísí hope.

It is worth remembering that this is in no way an unusual disappointment, either in human therapy sessions or in other human relationships. If such an experience recurs in a childís life too often, the child, in the worst case, begins to treat other people as if they were emotionless machines.

It is worth remembering that this is in no way an unusual disappointment, either in human therapy sessions or in other human relationships. If such an experience recurs in a childís life too often, the child, in the worst case, begins to treat other people as if they were emotionless machines. Anybody home? one feels like answering, and the answer goes: no, not a single living soul.


things 6, summer 1997

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