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[D] History of NLP: People projected intelligence and humanity onto the world’s first chatbot, Eliza

People familiar with NLP probably know about the ELIZA chatbot, which Joseph Weizenbaum created in 1966. ELIZA used a psychoanalyst’s tricks to keep a fairly natural conversation going, focusing in on keywords. (For example, if a human typed “I’m so angry with my sister,” the chatbot might reply, “Tell me why you’re so angry with your sister.”)

What I didn’t know was that Weizenbaum was thoroughly creeped out by people’s response to his creation. During their interactions with ELIZA, people developed emotional attachments to the program, and often confided in it.

From the article: “Even more surprising was that this sense of intimacy persisted even after Weizenbaum described how the machine worked and explained that it didn’t really understand anything that was being said. Weizenbaum was most troubled when his secretary, who had watched him build the program from scratch over many months, insisted that he leave the room so she could talk to Eliza in private.”

This is the third installment in a 6-part series on the history of NLP that I’m editing for IEEE Spectrum. I’m curious to know if people find it interesting.

submitted by /u/newsbeagle
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