When ELIZA, the world’s first chatbot, was born in the 1960s, users were startled at how much the Rogerian psychotherapist in the program resembled a human.
Since then, chatbots have become increasingly sophisticated; some claim they will soon pass the Turing test for successfully impersonating a human, or even that the famous test has already been passed.
But in the age of Big Data, does it make sense to say that bots are imitating us? Many already are us, constituted from the thoughts and emotions we share every day online.
Betty is about the ghost in the machine of AI—he human crouching inside the Mechanical Turk or controlling the Wizard of Oz from behind the curtain—in other words, us.
Audience members are invited to share their thoughts with an entity created by data-mining millions of social media messages is. Is AI really so artificial? And do these cyborgian interlocutors lend us an empathetic ear, or cold comfort?
A collaboration with artist Andrew Burrell, Betty was a new media installation for the Art Gallery of New South Wales Society Contempo series exhibition Electroscape: the here and now of digital art in February 2014. It is currently touring Australia as part of the Garden of Forking Paths exhibition presented by dLux Media Arts, curated by Neil Jenkins.
You can check out a working online port of Betty here. Warning: autoplaying sound.