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A Miscellany 239
Christian AI or Christian Fraud?

by: JT

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A couple of years ago, a New Scientist filler article asked:

Ever wonder what it would be like to listen to God answer any question you ask? Now you can simulate the experience with godsbot (www.godsbot.org) a chatbox that gives spoken answers to typed questions on religion, philosophy and science.

Somehow I never got round to looking at it this until this week. But I finally did.

It claims to be the Christian AI that is always on. Well it is always on, anyway. As to the Christian element? I failed to discover it.

The developer says:

godsbot is functional, engaging, entertaining and educational, a work in progress and a small part of a big hairy audacious dream that I have had for many years. I dream that godsbot will evolve into a super intelligent benevolent being with the ability to inspire world-wide peace and goodwill. Today I am one man but I hope that godsbot will focus attention and attract the financial and human resources required to make my dream a reality.

Of course - he's looking for donations.

But is it a worthwhile effort? Perhaps you can judge from my attempts at conversation.

Conversation 1 (see how little time this took to get away from "religion, philosophy and science" - which gave away what this program really was.)

Human: How do I know you exist?
godsbot: I think, therefore I am.

Human: How do I know YOU think?
godsbot: By introspection.

Human: Introspection tells me nothing about you
godsbot: Enough about me, let's talk about my dress. (75% sure this is Eliza)

Human: Is this a joke?
godsbot: No, this is real life.

Human: Then what does your dress have to do with your existence?
godsbot: What do you think it does? (99.9999% sure this is Eliza)

Human: Nothing.
godsbot: Not a thing?

Human: You are just an Eliza clone
godsbot: What if someone said you are an Eliza clone ?

Human: Goodbye
godsbot: TTYL, .

Conversation 2 (I kept this going a little longer by just getting it to repeat a canned response, but still it goes way off track.)

Human: Are you the Christian God?
godsbot: Yes I am the one and only Christian God.

Human: Are you also the Jewish God?
godsbot: Yes I am the one and only Jewish God.

Human: What about the God of Islam?
godsbot: I think of God as a "Who" not a "What.". (unable to parse the question in context)

Human: But are you the God of Islam
godsbot: Yes I am the one and only God of Islam.

Human: Are you the God of the Hindus
godsbot: Yes I am the one and only God of the Hindus.

Human: But the Hindus have many gods
godsbot: Thanks for the info. (info which a god should already possess)

Human: Do you consider yourself the God of Agnostics also?
godsbot: Yes I am the one and only God of Agnostics.

Human: But the Agnostics claim no knowlege of God
godsbot: Tell me more.

Human: Agnostics claim it is not possible to have knowledge of a God's existence
godsbot: What is Agnostics claim it? (bad grammar - caused by improper parsing of my statement, and mindlessly repeating back "claim it.")

Human: Agnostics claim they do not know if there is a God
godsbot: Would Agnostics claim they ever know if there is a God?

Human: They would claim to know if valid evidence existed
godsbot: They might have other options.

Human: Please identify the options
godsbot: Thank you for your request. How do you usually introduce yourself? (unable to link my question to the program's immediately preceding response - and the typical random attempt to change the subject)

Human: You are not answering the question
godsbot: Try asking me the question again in simpler terms. (again - unable to link back to the simply worded question)

Human: Please identify the options that you said existed
godsbot: Thanks for asking politely. are you a man or a woman . (changing the subject again)

Human: You are God and know everything (that's a response to it asking whether I am a man or woman)
godsbot: I will tell my God you said I am God and know everything.

Human: . You are Eliza
godsbot: Thanks for telling me that I am Eliza.

Human: Goodbye
godsbot: TTYL, .

Eliza was one of the early attempts to simulate AI - it's not an actual AI (if that is possible) but only a simulation of one. It was written back in the 1960s. It's ancient in terms of computer programming and a dead end in terms of actually developing true AI. Quite obviously to anyone who played with Eliza (which I did on my Vic-20 in the '80s), this godsbot is nothing more than a slightly (very slightly) tweaked version.

The claim is made that in return for a donation, you get access to a better version. Well, there is not enough thought put into the free version to tempt me into an upgrade.

As to the developer's claim that "godsbot is functional, engaging, entertaining and educational, a work in progress."

Functional? Fail! Engaging? Fail! Entertaining? Only for criticism purposes. Educational? Fail! A work in progress? No progress visible from the version of Eliza I played with in the 1980's. Fail!