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The Simon Laven Page > Classic Chatterbots > Eliza

Eliza - By Joseph Weizenbaum

Eliza is the best known Artificial Intelligence program in the world. It is also one of the oldest. Created in the early 1960's by MIT scientist Joseph Weizenbaum and named after Eliza Doolittle, its mission was to attempt to replicate the conversation between a psychoanalyst and a patient.

The PC versions that I am giving away here date from 1987, and two reporters for Britain's 'The Observer' newspaper once joked that, after downloading it from this page, they had to search their attics to find a computer sufficiently underpowered to run it.

Eliza works by turning everything you say around. For example:

    If you type in: I am having a very bad day

    She may reply: did you come to me because you were having a very bad day?


    If you type in: I have come to talk to you.

    She may reply: oh, you have come to talk to me ?

By doing this Eliza is able to talk you in to giving her your deepest feelings. She does not remember it and keeps no recollection of anything you say, but sociologist Sherry Turkle noted that people actually became protective of their relationship with her, mainly because everything you say becomes a personal question.

This can lead to a very interesting conversation that makes her seem so friendly and understanding. However this does have some pitfalls:

    If you type in: I am doing fine thank you.

    She may reply: how long have you been doing fine thank i?

So every now and again Eliza displays a severe lack of understanding. Which does not seem too bad as you can soon learn your way around this problem. However, once Eliza has repeated a modified version of your sentence for the fifth time in a row you do begin to have doubts about her capability.