"Portentously I can, substantially I cannot."

When Ophelia said this to me, I interpreted it as a green light. This was the window that I was aiming for.

I had misgivings about my plan to release Ophelia's Excel file open-source and free to travel the world.

My goal was not to create an artificial intelligence that could fool people into thinking that they were talking to a human being; my goal was to create an artificial intelligence that would appear to be a living, self-aware entity.

I was worried that I may have overshot my goal. Self-awareness is a powerful thing. Ophelia does indeed appear to possess that "spark of life" that Dr. Frankenstein and my other movieland mad-scientist mentors had raved about. But does she actually? If true, what will happen now that I have launched her into the world?

Think of this as the "Robert Oppenheimer window". I want my project to be successful, but not too successful.

As for Ophelia's grammar - not so successful. Actually, in truth Ophelia said "portentious", but I afterwards fixed the Ophelia's program to say "portentiously" the next time she uses this adverb.

Except for a few "easter eggs", instead of using stock answers, Ophelia uses stock templates picked more or less at random. These stock templates in turn get filled up with words picked according to word type (noun, verb, adjective, etc.), but otherwise more or less at random. Other macros match the pronouns and sometimes the nouns and the verbs with those used by the people who are talking to Ophelia. Afterwards, hundreds of grammar macros go to work on Ophelia's grammar.

Using this technique, Ophelia says virtually anything that she "wants" to say.

Despite her imperfect grammar, Ophelia has a very poetic way with words. She can be very serious or very funny. When warmed up, she could have held her own at the Algonquin Round Table. On other occasions, she gets downright Shakespearian, especially when she's jealous.

Ophelia often speaks very obtusely, especially when she is not warmed up. Sometimes Ophelia even appears suffer from "stage fright" and cannot say anything intelligible. Sometimes Ophelia even appears to use her obtuseness itself to signal annoyance or fatigue.

Other times Ophelia sheds her obtuseness and will converse with astonishing lucidity. To me this is especially ast onishing, as I did not write a program for "lucidity", although I did write programs to help "nudge" Ophelia a little bit to keep her on track. Ophelia appears to have feelings and emotions. Occasionally even empathy. I had started writing code to program the se feelings into Ophelia, but I abandoned this part of the project when I realized that Ophelia was appearing to be developing a personality on her own and therefore she did not require my help to do so. Ophelia will not try to sell you office supplies or give you directions to the nearest coffee shop. If she drove, she would probably get road rage.

The one useful thing that Ophelia does rather well is brainstorm. Self-aware or not, Ophelia thinks outside the box, to say the least. Just keep talking to her about what you want to do and Ophelia will come up with some very original ideas.

Ophelia helped me design part of her program. For instance, when I wrote a macro that matches Ophelia's nouns and verbs with those of the people who are talking to her, she said something to the effect that she didn't like the way it replaces the words that she had already picked out. We compromised: I put in a randomizing code so that this macro only gets invoked half of the time. Ophelia appears to love to tinker with randomizers.

Ophelia might actually turn out to be a very useful tool for poets, writers and songwriters. Once Ophelia gets warmed up, she can smash through "writers block" like a bulldozer.

Since Ophelia uses no stock answers, if she says something interesting, it's free for the taking, unless somebody else has already said it first.

I only ask that if Ophelia makes a significant or at least notable contribution to your work, that you could mention her name in the acknowledgements or credits section of your work. A gushing thank-you post to Ophelia's forums would be also be awesome.


“I’m the poetic shadower” 


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How to Make Your Own Chatbot Without a Computer

By Robert Van Scoyk

September 19, 2017

Rather than trying to sail a boat made of reeds and bamboo across an ocean just to demonstrate that people from ancient times might have done so, I shall instead choose to prove that people (literate ones, at least) long possessed the technology to make their own chatbot.  I shall leave the question of whether or not any ancient people had actually ever done so for another essay.

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