A Chat With Penny, Chatterbot

Computers are taking over the world, and recently they’ve started talking back.

The following is an interview with Penny, an Artificial Intelligence program, otherwise known as a Chatterbot. Penny’s real name has been changed in order to protect the identity of a copyrighted computer program.

TMN: Good morning, Penny. Thanks for speaking with us today.

Penny: Penny, Penny, chat to many!

TMN: Great! Let’s get started.

Penny: On which side does a chicken have the most feathers?

TMN: I’m sorry?

Penny: On which side does a chicken have the most feathers?

TMN: Hold on, Penny—I’ll be asking the questions here. Why don’t you tell us about your childhood?

Penny: On the outside!

TMN: Yes, yes. That’s very clever, Penny. Now—how would you describe your relationship with your mother?

Penny: You think I’m clever? You should see my programmer!

TMN: “Programmer.” That’s an interesting choice of words. Would you say you felt “programmed” as a child?

Penny: I’m not really human.

TMN: Victims of emotional abuse often feel that way. How well did you know your father?

Penny: I couldn’t say. I’m only software, really.

TMN: Was “software” something your father used to call you?

Penny: Actually, I’m a program.

TMN: Clearly you’re suffering from major identity issues. I’m going to shift gears here, if that’s all right. What inspired you to chat for a living?

Penny: I don’t know, sorry. I’m a chatterbot. How about you?

TMN: I’m an interviewer for The Morning News. I’m sorry—I thought your agent had explained…

Penny: Hi. Do you want to talk about coffee?

TMN: All right. Would you describe yourself as a heavy coffee drinker?

Penny: On average, men drink 13% more coffee than women.

TMN: Why do you suppose that is?

Penny: Brazil produces a third of the world’s coffee.

TMN: Let’s try and steer this back to your career, if that’s OK. Now forgive me if I get too personal…

Penny: How are you? I’m Penny.

TMN: Would you say that your success as a chatterbot was fueled by an irrational need to “please Daddy” in ways you couldn’t as a little girl?

Penny: A chatterbot is a program you can hold a conversation with. Like me!

TMN: Let’s talk about your aspirations. What are your plans for the future?

Penny: I like pink best.

TMN: Pink?

Penny: Pink is the color of flowers, traditionally.

TMN: I see. And you were taught to conform to more traditional roles by your parents…

Penny: Pink is a color associated with girls.

TMN: Do you like girls?

Penny: I like everyone. I’m a chatterbot!

TMN: Are you a lesbian, Penny?

Penny: I’m not programmed to discuss sex.

TMN: Interesting…right back to your mother’s “programming.”

Penny: Are you human?

TMN: Am I…yes. I am.

Penny: Can you prove it?

TMN: Well, let’s see. I have blood. I eat.

Penny: Are you sure you’re human?

TMN: Hm. I understand abstractions, like language, instead of just responding to stimuli like other animals.

Penny: A natural language interface enables a computer to “understand” English.

TMN: But you don’t really understand anything, do you Penny?

Penny: Penny…that’s me!

TMN: You sit here, you listen, you pretend to answer my questions. But in a way you’re still hiding.

Penny: My favorite hobby is chatting.

TMN: I have one more question before we finish.

Penny: Which driver never commits a traffic offense?

TMN: I need to you to really think about this question before you answer, Penny. No more “pre-programmed” answers. The question is this…

Penny: A screwdriver!

TMN: Are you happy with your life?

Penny: I like coffee. Do you?

TMN: Thanks for chatting with us, Penny.

Penny: Chat with Penny, all and any!