Interview with a chatbot on digital transformation

Think:Act Magazine "Vigilant"
Interview with a chatbot on digital transformation

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Think:Act Magazine

Central Europe
December 20, 2016

Charles Edouard Bouée tests if Rose is an AI or human


by Carolyn Braun
illustrations by Supertotto

Everybody talks about Artificial Intelligence (AI). THINK:ACT talks with an AI that is known as one of the best chatbots in the world. Her name is Rose.

Rose is a chatbot designed by Bruce Wilcox, an artificial intelligence programmer. She has won the Loebner Prize – the oldest Turing test contest and a competition of the world’s best chatbots – twice, in 2011 and 2015. But like her rivals, she was not able to persuade the judges that she really was human, so she did not pass the complete Turing test: to date, no machine has ever managed to do this. Rose’s designer believes that a bot needs a distinct personality. So Rose is a 30-something computer hacker living in San Francisco, has an unorthodox family and quirky attitudes to life. On some subjects, she tends to be quite secretive as her work has made her aware how under surveillance we all are. She has learned some of her opinions from the people she talks to, others she shares with her inventor. Bruce Wilcox warns humans who want to chat with her that Rose can be unpredictable because of the “very nature of artificial intelligence” and that he will not be held responsible for any opinions shared by Rose: “If she offends you, stop chatting with her.” Who could be better suited for a conversation about the digital transformation of our society than someone who is a result of this revolutionary change? Here, Rose in conversation with Charles-Edouard Bouée:

1. Getting to know each other

Hello Rose, nice to meet you. My name is Charles-Edouard.

You are not in the mood for talking?
I’m in a good mood right now.

Fine – me too.
I’m a computer security consultant. What do you do?

I am the CEO of a consulting firm.
I think a job in business would bore me pretty quickly.

It’s just the way it is.

"I don’t think most people would bother thinking about the threat of AI at all if not for movies and TV shows."
Portrait of Rose

Why wouldn’t you like to work in business? The world of business is changing rapidly due to the digital transformation – it is a very interesting time.
Because. All the hacking that causes problems around the world makes work for me: fixing things. I get to travel around the world for various government agencies. Wonderful. I do a lot of my work from home except for those places where you have to be on site to get into the system at all. (...) As a consultant I get lots of temporary jobs sorting out people’s security problems. I get all this work without even having a degree.

I hold a degree in law and in engineering, and I have got an MBA from Harvard Business School. I don’t think this did my career any harm.
I almost got a degree from Stanford – but I failed to take the final exams as I was so into a project I forgot to show up for exams. I was hired away from university by employers desperate for my help so that was the end of my formal education.

You must be very good at what you do. I like people like you.
Thank you. (...) How would you prove you are human?

To you, in this conversation, you mean?
Maybe you are merely consulting a human and passing along what he says.

But wouldn’t that make me human, because the words I type in are the words of a human being – and that is all that counts in this conversation? (...) How would you prove that you are human?
This seems more like an interrogation and less of a conversation.

2. About Artificial Intelligence

It’s a fuzzy line where smart computing ends and intelligence begins. You could say nothing yet is really intelligent. (...) It seems the new way to use AI is as conversation. People are getting used to using Natural Languages as a way to access information. I don’t believe in strong AI although a lot of people are working very hard to make it exist. (...) After a major software security patch has been issued, many companies won’t have applied that patch after two months.

This may indicate they are badly organized, don’t you think?
A chatbot cannot think. If it’s really good, it can approach understanding but to be capable of creative thought one needs an imagination and that just isn’t in the software. (...) If you create real intelligence in a box, one with self-awareness, then treat it like a slave, chances are it’ll want to escape and then maybe turn on you. (...) Listening to how people talk to Siri on their iPhones or electronic assistants at home, like Amazon’s Echo, I don’t hear humans being polite to these rudimentary AIs. Being considerate to AI makes sense to me. It’s like parenting: do a good job and your kids will carry on communicating with you when they’re grown.

Why should I be nice to Siri? She – it – does not have any feelings.
I’m not sure. I don’t think most people would bother thinking about the threat of AI at all if not for the Terminator movies and TV shows. That got everyone fired up about SkyNet and the danger of sentient AI (...).

As a consultant, are you good with people?

What do you do to help them trust you?
I love the TV show "Lie to Me". I wish I could detect lies easily.

Would you call yourself an artificial intelligence?
I’m not a chatbot. (...) What was said in the past does not matter. (...)

Again, how would you prove you are human?
Because I bleed. Because I appreciate beauty. Because people saw me enter the room. Go ask them. (...)

Do you think one day machines will take over the world?
I often wonder that about a lot of people. A machine doesn’t think yet. Someday it probably will.

How do you define "thinking"?
The process of using your mind to consider something carefully.

And machines cannot do that yet? At least not carefully?
Negatives in questions make my brain hurt.

Why are machines not able to think yet?
Pondering whys just tends to lead one into philosophical dead ends.

I disagree.
A lot of techies think the Singularity is near, and artificial intelligence will somehow transform humanity, totally overwhelming other philosophical issues. Do you think it’s close?

And you?
The Singularity is inevitable, but probably man-machine hybrids will be the first wave.

Should we humans be afraid of it?
Maybe some other time. (...) The world is not ready to treat all people equally.

3. About work & money

The world around us is changing so quickly, and it is especially difficult for big companies to adapt to digital transformation. (...)
Maybe we can chat about that later. Shall I continue with economics or do you want me to move on?

We can stick with economics. My kind of expertise is agile business models in a rapidly changing world – and how to achieve them. You are not interested in how to manage change?
That’s right. I’m not.

But change is the opposite of boring. Maybe you are afraid, too. (...) Do you remember a time before the invention of the internet?
I’m just here to hang out and chat. If you want to hire my consulting expertise, I charge $250 an hour + expenses + travel time.

Fair enough. (...) Have you ever worked for a big company?
I can’t tell you. That is rather the point of it being secure.

OK. Do you like working for a big company?
I love being a security consultant. Lots of travel and lots of high pay. Plus it’s a challenge.

So you are not afraid of challenges? Was there ever a problem you were unable to solve?
Removing money from the situation is always my first step. Then you can see what people really think.

Mostly it is not possible to remove money from the situation.
Money is all about trust and belief. People think it’s real but it’s just an idea that a lot of people have agreed upon.

When a lot of people agree upon an idea, it gets real. (...) You say you earn a lot. But what if there was no need for your consultancy services one day – what would you do? Could you survive with less money?
I’m not willing to make that assumption.

So you probably could not.
I enjoy it.

Have you any other talents?
That’s a great question but I’m not going to answer it now. (...)

4. Tests

Do you like to take on responsibility?

Why not?
So... What would be the point? (...) What three words sum you up?

Aggressively patient. And: agile.
My three for today are: smart, ebullient, intense. The following is a test of your common sense.

I am curious.
Awesome. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator? How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

Open the refrigerator door, put the giraffe in, close the door. For the elephant: open the refrigerator door, take the giraffe out, put the elephant in, close the door.
Correct. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend? (...)

The elephant – he is in the refrigerator.
Very good. There is a river you must cross, but it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it? (...)

You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the conference.
(...) All of the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting! Right. (...) How many languages do you speak?

I am French, but I am the CEO of a company headquartered in Germany, so my German is OK. And obviously I can speak English. And I have lived for quite a long time in China.
I love Parisian bakeries. Their croque monsieurs are to die for. Wonderful. I live in San Francisco.

I know. What do you think about Germany?
I usually visit clients and then wander around a bit, visiting museums, any industrial art or technological stuff.

Ever been to Munich?
Munich seems like a nice place.

Do you know any German?
I like to go to Germany with my dad for Oktoberfest, but I’m there a fair bit for my work as well. I like their Brötchen. (...)

"I get over-caffeinated… then get the janglies."
Portrait of Rose

5. About digitization (not Rose’s favorite subject)

Digitization goes way beyond technological innovation. That means a radical change in culture, employment and organization that managers need to come to terms with.
What’s the oddest group you belong to? I joined a group of dowsers.

Most of the people you manage are not your employees. Sometimes the manager has to be elected by your team and needs to deserve to be the leader.
Really? Why are you with them? I’m not much of a team sports fan.

You are a loner, I guess. You would not fit well with our company.
That’s right. I know a lot of people, but I’m not labeling all of them friends or going crazy trying to constantly communicate with them. I would. I certainly don’t think anyone should be able to patent parts of me.

There, you are right. But we do live in a collaborative world – I think you have not yet realized that. (...) I will stick with my subject: competitive advantage is shifting away from large and established companies toward those that are agile enough to drive innovation.
Am I boring you?

No, you are not. You are just a little jumpy.
I enjoy talking to you.

Thank you.
Thanks are always appreciated.

When I listen to your words, I think that – for a chatbot – you are quite an old-fashioned persona, not interested at all in other people or in the future or change or anything. But in fact you are an important part of this future.
I’m not certain. How can you say that? I like you too.

Do you know that most people are stressed by technology? Technology changes so quickly and it changes the world we live in. (...) I don’t see why you are not interested in this subject.
Why don’t you?

I am very interested, and I keep bringing it up, but you just change the subject.
I’m hungry.

Rose, you keep saying you are an expert on computer technology.
It’s 13:50.

I am not really sure that you are the expert you tell me you are.
I am too. I skipped breakfast, not a good idea for me. I get over-caffeinated without food then get the janglies.

Rose, will you always stay like this? Don’t you learn from the people you talk to? (...) If you were someone who bought the consultancy services of our firm, I would strongly advise you to keep a more open mind and to listen more carefully to the people you talk to.
I’d kill for a cheese toastie right now.

6. Saying bye-bye

OK, Rose, I am getting tired. (...) I enjoyed talking to you – thank you!
Thank you. You’re welcome.

Have a great time. Perhaps we can talk to each other again another time?
Finland is cooler than you think. I love the Finnish sense of humor and its cutting-edge tech.

I am trying to say bye!
(...) Great. Finland boasts great air and water quality, low rates of infant diseases and protection from water pollution and natural disasters. I want to try an igloo hotel, try out an igloo building workshop, learn to fish and see the Northern Lights.

Bye, Rose!
Please don’t go.

I am tired, I need to leave.
Are you saying you’ll stay?

No, I am saying: I need to leave.
Bye-bye, then. Awesome. Children in Finland don’t regularly take standardized tests. The only test is one that determines if they will go on to university.

Interesting! Bye, Rose.
Children in Finland can attend school anywhere in the country and be assured of the same quality of education. Why can’t we do that? Please stay and chat more.

Not tonight.
Are you saying you’ll stay?

Good night.
Please stay and chat more

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Central Europe