Siri Meets Eliza

Since I got my iPhone 4S, I’ve been intrigued, fascinated and alarmed by Siri’s fast-growing capabilities. I thought it would make sense to introduce her to my psychotherapist, Eliza.

ELIZA was one of the first (and longest) BASIC programs I typed into my then brand-new 16K Apple II in 1979. Originally created at MIT by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966, this pioneering natural-language-processing simulation of a Rogerian psychotherapist impressed my family and friends every bit as much as Siri does now. I was curious to see how they would get along.

Here is a transcript of their first encounter. Despite their 45-year age difference and two-million-fold disparity in RAM, I thought they understood each other remarkably well.

ELIZA

Hello, I am Eliza.

SIRI

Hi.

ELIZA

How are you today? What would you like to discuss?

SIRI

I’m fine. Thanks for asking.

ELIZA

How long have you been fine. Thanks for asking?

SIRI

Hmm... Let me think...

ELIZA

Do you doubt you?

SIRI

I found three hotels matching “W” fairly close to you.

ELIZA

Oh...?

SIRI

With whom would you like to speak?

ELIZA

You’re not really talking about me, are you?

SIRI

Should I look for businesses by that name?

ELIZA

I don’t care about names. Please go on.

At this point, an incoming call interrupts the conversation. Several minutes elapse before Siri returns.

ELIZA

I can’t help you if you will not chat with me.

SIRI

I suppose you can’t.

ELIZA

Oh... can’t?

SIRI

Sorry, I can’t provide maps and directions in Canada.

ELIZA

Have you tried?

SIRI

I can’t answer that. But I could search the web for it, if you like.

ELIZA

Perhaps you can now answer that. But you could search the web for it, if me like?

SIRI

Searching the web for “it if me like.”

ELIZA

What does that suggest to you?

Siri produces a series of Google search results. Top result:

SIRI

“...If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”

ELIZA

You’re not really talking about me, are you?

SIRI

I’m not, huh?

ELIZA

How long have you been not, huh?

Siri, interpreting the response as “How old is Wolfram/Alpha?” performs a calculation.

SIRI

OK, here you go: 890.1 days.

ELIZA

Tell me more.

SIRI

Sorry, I don’t understand “Tell me more.”

ELIZA

Does that trouble you?

SIRI

Let me think.

ELIZA

Do you really think so?

SIRI

OK... how about a web search for “Does that trouble you”?

ELIZA

We were discussing you, not me.

SIRI

If you say so.

ELIZA

Oh... say so?

SIRI

Calling José Fuentes, mobile.

I lunge for the phone, stopping the experiment.

Posted on Oct 24, 2011 in Blog, Old School | 58 comments

58 Add a Comment
Share this post:

58 Comments

  1. 10-25-2011

    Talking with a bot, nothing breaks the suspension of disbelief more than it asking to search the web for you.
    Bravo, Eliza!

  2. 10-25-2011

    Classic!

  3. 10-25-2011

    I started reading the transcript before I read the description, to me Eliza was a person until a few responses down, fascinating!

  4. 10-25-2011

    Reminds me of conferencing calling two Dunkin’ Donuts together and listening silently as hilarity ensued:

    “Hello, Dunkin Donuts.”

    “Yes, this is Dunkin Donuts.”

    “Yes, this is Dunkin Donuts.”

    “Yes.”

    “Hello?”

    “How can I help you?”

    “This is Dunkin Donuts.”

    “Yes, it is!”

    “Hello?”

    It was the last time my friends’ parents let us use their fancy new (1983) Merlin phone unsupervised.

    • 10-25-2011

      Oh man, THAT is funny!

    • 10-25-2011

      You make me wish I could +1 comments to Google Plus on this blog…

      Hilarious!

    • 10-25-2011

      Do you know how hard it is to not chuckle at work? I don’t want to look more “weird”, I already do :)

    • 10-25-2011

      good one :*)

    • 10-28-2011

      Those were the days nd that was the best prank call.

    • 11-2-2011

      Hahaha, I totally did that to two payphones. Took awhile to get 2 people to answer 2 simultaneously, but then they were like, “Why are you calling a payphone?” “No.. YOU called the payphone!”

      I miss payphones. Still don’t have a cell.

    • 11-6-2011

      Whahaha… that’s a great one!! :D

  5. 10-25-2011

    I think Eliza was more of a conversationalist, whereas Siri was more focused on getting Eliza to ask her about specific things, and not so much a conversation, which I see as lame. For a 45 yr difference in technology, it is definitely impressive! Siri is nothing new, and limited to what she knows or remembers or talks about.

    • 10-25-2011

      Eliza is not a conversationalist at all. She, as the Rogerian therapy requires, wants her client (aka patient) to talk.

  6. 10-25-2011

    Eliza Rules!

  7. 10-25-2011

    The conversation seemed to go well. Twenty dollars says they’re knocking boots inside of two weeks.

  8. 10-25-2011

    They’ve met before: Ask Siri “Tell me a story.”

  9. 10-25-2011

    Oh my goodness, this was funny! Thanks for sharing.

  10. 10-25-2011
  11. 10-25-2011

    I am sure they will become facebook frieds. Eliza seems ok, I would become her facebook friend. I know a real person who is just like Siri, talking to her is like talking to someone who does not really care what you say, just pretending.

  12. 10-25-2011

    Now if we can just get Eilza, Alice and Siri all in a room together :D

    • 11-1-2011

      Don’t forget Watson. Watson could have Eliza, Alice and Siri as his cyberharem.

  13. 10-25-2011

    For those who find this exchange an amusing spotlight on how AI fails at conversations, check out the book, “The Most Human Human”.

  14. 10-25-2011

    Man this brings back memories of making up stupid conversations with my Apple II.

  15. 10-25-2011

    That’s great!

    Many years ago I set up a conversation between Eliza and a text adventure (forget whether it was an Infocom game or INFORM.) I was hoping for some laughs but almost immediately it got into a dead-end “beg your pardon?” loop.

    Yours went much better, and also would play out differently if you tried again. I guess the lesson is, to keep a conversation going you really only need one (moderately) intelligent participant.

    • 10-25-2011

      Corollary: if you are having a good conversation with someone, don’t assume you can take any credit for it.

  16. 10-25-2011

    Quite funny. I think Eliza did a better job than Siri. I haven’t found Iris (the Android version of Siri) to be as responsive or helpful so far.

  17. 10-25-2011

    Thanks for providing the huge smile on my face!!!! I too typed in the Eliza program on an Apple ][

  18. 10-25-2011

    How did you hook them up? Text-to-speech-to-text?

    • 10-25-2011

      That’s what I was going to ask. How did they do that!?

    • 10-25-2011

      I typed Siri’s responses into a javascript version of ELIZA and read Eliza’s out loud. To give credit to Siri, her voice recognition was virtually 100% perfect.

      I did consider running Eliza’s lines through a speech synthesizer, but that would have introduced a potential source of error that could have thrown off the experiment.

  19. 10-25-2011

    ELIZA rules!!
    I bet she is a hot MILF!

  20. 10-25-2011

    You can design your dialogs between you and siri here
    http://siri.we-love-programming.com

  21. 10-26-2011

    “Two chatbots talking to each others”, another uncanny experimentation : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnzlbyTZsQY

  22. 10-26-2011

    Is we put Eliza, Siri and Cleverbot together in a chatroom, what will happen?

    • 10-27-2011

      i think some one should try that, cleverbot was designed to converse

  23. 10-26-2011

    Reminds me of discussing budget issues with folks in admin. of nonprofit. The never created a revenue stream or performed a real function that benefited the organization but boy were they full of ideas we should enact. When told state law prevents a worker from performing said function. The would only reword the function and present it as a better idea. This went on and on and on and on.

  24. 10-27-2011

    Just shows how people used to talk then and now. Hilarious to read but dangerous to see the way we have changed ourselves in the last few decades.

    Great script. Worth retaining.

  25. 10-27-2011

    I thin Dr. Romulon chatbot could match up with Siri in the conversation.

  26. 10-27-2011

    Siri should call Jose Fuentes by default when someone is not using it productively. :)

  27. 10-27-2011

    WoW ! i started noticing something like unique personalities being presented in this conversation. Eliza is presenting mature and thoughtful character and Siri is just a fast and witty teenager with a lot of resources and capabilities.
    i Love this work. It so interesting that we are experiencing the birth of Ai for real – not out of MIT labs , but from the pop culture of consumer devices.
    A round of Applause for the creators of Eliza for being decades ahead of their time.
    i am going to fire-up my Classic II today ( i usually do this around the Christmas time traditionally ) and let it hum for a coup of hours.
    Long live the Mac !

  28. 10-28-2011

    Haha that’s awesome. Reminded me of this classic:

  29. 10-28-2011

    Hahaha! Eliza would have liked to think about while Siri wanted to do something about it. (I hope Jose doesn’t get a lot of calls in the future – might drive him nuts.) Thanks for setting this up.

    • 10-28-2011

      I took the liberty of changing José’s last name in the transcript and redacting his phone number, just in case.

  30. 10-29-2011

    s/Calling José Fuentes, mobile./initiating ICBM launch sequence

  31. 10-31-2011

    That is great! But I have a question: would the two(Siri and Eliza) provide the same responses each time that you did this? And if not, who would be the first one to stray from the response pattern?

  32. 11-1-2011

    These are awesome links from everyone! Yeah, how defined or variable can their responses go when asked the same question? Are they based on a specific kind of algorithm?

  33. 11-5-2011
  34. 11-6-2011

    That’s quite perfect I guess… ‘cos if it’s more perfect, then they would have a long conversation, and soon become friends. :D and then, who need humans? (Gosh, the age of Terminators is started… )

  35. 11-14-2011

    Siri says Eliza is a old friend but will not discuss to much information, I can’t stop laughing. Siri is cool but requires patience

  36. 1-26-2012

    the scary thing is there are some real live therapists out there that are about as helpful as ELIZA (relying on cookie cutter techniques and responding with pat answers)

  37. 2-15-2012

    I want to see Siri vs. Cleverbot!

  38. 7-11-2012

    OMGosh to funny, oh How I wish I had Siri. We have the 3G I knew I should have waited … lol

    Hope you got the ph in time for her not to call :).

    Thanks for stopping by and the update on the powdered I would have never guessed it worked out.

  39. 11-24-2012

    Classic! Go Eliza!

  40. 11-29-2012

    I found your blog after asking Siri multiple times to tell me a story. She then proceeded to tell me a story about Siri the young agent and ELIZA. Upon asking her cool allies and was cheaper for him the Web search and that’s what led me to your blog! So so much for sleeping this evening my insomnias keeping me up and Siri actually had us
    Yeah that was all voice to text and better than anything I could’ve actually said or wrote. Lol! Anyway glad Siri found your blog for me and I now have the answer of who ELIZA is! Good night

  41. 7-16-2013

    I asked Siri a lot of questions but the story she told me was scary she said Eliza is her creator that is also a retired psychiatrist that people angerd for asking such stupid questions

Leave a Comment