Named after George Bernard Shaw’s ingénue in Pygmalion, the ELIZA program operated within the Project MAC computer system at MIT and made natural language exchange between man and machine possible. ELIZA identified key words and phrases and responded with rote answers that simulated a conversation.
Here’s what happened when a young girl tried to reason with ELIZA in one of the first examples of The Turing Test.
(To hear the audio from this discussion, head over to Radiolab for their fantastic episode on the subject, “Talking to Machines”)
1966 / Cambridge, MA: Talking Cure
Client: Men are all alike.
ELIZA (a computer): In what way
Client: They’re always bugging us about something or other.
ELIZA: Can you think of a specific example
Client: Well, my boyfriend made me come here.
ELIZA: Your boyfriend made you come here
Client: He says I’m depressed much of the time.
ELIZA: I am sorry to hear you are depressed
Client: It’s true. I am unhappy.
ELIZA: Do you think coming here will help you not to be unhappy
Client: I need some help, that much seems certain.
ELIZA: What would it mean to you if you got some help
Client: Perhaps I could learn to get along with my mother.
ELIZA: Tell me more about your family
Client: My mother takes care of me.
ELIZA: Who else in your family takes care of you
Client: My father.
ELIZA: Your father
Client: You are like my father in some ways.