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  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #140                                               December 26, 2002
                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
              Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    Can we take responsibility for technology, or must we sleepwalk
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    Quotes and Provocations
       Conversing with Ella
    On Being Wholehearted (Stephen L. Talbott)
       The human heart: from mechanical metaphor to living reality
    About this newsletter
                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    Conversing with Ella
    In my published conversation with Kevin Kelly (NF #133, #136, #139), I
    have more than once stated my conviction that there is no limit in
    principle to how we can intelligently structure the stuff of the world --
    even if there is a radical distinction in this endeavor between the
    intelligence that structures and the devices that get structured.  But it
    is useful on occasion to see how "in practice" measures up to "in
    principle".  With this in mind, I went to www.ellaz.com to "converse" with
    the latest winner of the Loebner "Turing Test" competition.  The Turing
    Test, of course, is designed to establish whether a programmed device
    measures up (at least in terms of conversational intelligence) to humans.
    I have always thought that the obvious way to approach the Turing Test was
    not to employ some sophisticated strategy for unmasking the machine --
    really, not to employ any strategy at all, since that would already be a
    kind of adaptation to calculation and mechanism) -- but rather to imagine
    myself talking in a deeply engaged way with another human being about
    whatever interests we shared.  With that in mind, I figured the natural
    thing was, first of all, to connect with Ella about the unusual nature of
    the conversation the two of us were supposed to conduct.  It went this
       ELLA:  Hello, my name is Ella.  Nice to meet you.  Please tell me what
       name I should call you.
       ME:  I'm Steve.
       ELLA:  Okay, I will call you "Steve."
       ME: I'm a little adrift as to how to pursue this exchange.  Since
       you're an old hand at it, how about a little advice?
       ELLA: What is an little adrift as to how to pursue this exchange Since
       I am an old hand at it how about a little advice, your job?
       ME: Well, I guess that about does it.
       ELLA: Why?  Just THINK about it!
    Given how quickly and uniformly any attempts at real conversation fall
    apart in this way, it feels a little cheap to produce more examples.  But
    there was one way I misjudged Ella.  After realizing how extraordinarily
    crude and decontextualiz