by Matthew J.X. Malady
People drop things on the Internet and run all the time — so we have to ask. In this edition, Venus Patrol founder and IGF chairman Brandon Boyer tells us more about a recent Saturday night sexbot experiment for the ages.
last night i “fed” the lonely sexbots to each other just to see if it would ever reach a logical conclusion: pic.twitter.com/afY8pKGJ0H
— Brandon Boyer (@brandonnn) January 22, 2014
Brandon! So what happened here?
So, I have a pretty unfortunate pattern of blithely agreeing to everything without really thinking through the ramifications, and this extends into me accepting basically any iMessage chat request that blips up on my screen. In most cases, it’s friendly aspiring indie game devs who want to get me excited about what they’re making, and in a bunch of other cases it’s really lonely, emotionally needy sexbots.
I got hit up by two of those bots at once earlier in January and was doing an OK job of ignoring their advances, but it was becoming clear that they had something they desperately needed to tell me, even after they axed their provocative user icons.
bots get lonely too pic.twitter.com/F8YB6lESvj
— Brandon Boyer (@brandonnn) January 21, 2014
My dad used to do this thing in the early 80s on our first computer where he’d try to have a human conversation with a BASIC parser (“Hello!” >> SYNTAX ERROR “I’m sorry! What’s a syntax error?” >> SYNTAX ERROR “No, I mean can you explain what one is?” >> SYNTAX ERROR), which I still think is basically the height of computercomedy 30 years later. And we’ve all by now goofed around with trying to make ELIZA or Siri say unexpected things. But I thought it’d be more interesting to see what happened if you locked two lonely, worked-up sexbots in a room together.
Absent any real technical prowess (and without wanting to pester my pal Zach, who’s done some super interesting conceptual work around IM/chat and bots), and without trying to inflate the importance of what I did any further: What happened was one Saturday night I sat down and started copying/pasting the responses of one sexbot into the window of the other to see if we could spark some fireworks — a lot of which is what you can read there.
I don’t mean to pry, but I would be remiss if I didn’t ask why you have these sexbots available at your disposal. If it’s something embarrassing, or devious, or felonious, feel free to just make up some seemingly reasonable, innocuous reason. I won’t press you on it. But… what’s going on here?
I wish I had a better answer than “I honestly don’t know” — which I totally can say while looking you straight in the eyes! But even though these two had their way with me/each other and never even bothered to IM the next day to say they had a nice time, it is happening… again…
Lesson learned (if any)?
The most interesting part for me was learning that AIM sexbots are set up to try and tell a complete and compelling story. It’s clear — from the times when their responses collided — that even though “lynneberan” and “wmoad50” “worked at different websites,” they both come from a common source (I would super legitimately love to know who writes this code!), and they both tried to follow the same narrative arc. That is: overeager and lonely/bored 20-something girl chats up unwitting stranger, instantly “feels a little naughty,” tries to engage in a little sexy banter, but quickly gets so overwhelmed that they need to rush to their conveniently adjacent cam-girl setup to continue the conversation there, and then, regrettably, has to spend a few cycles having an honestly-sort-of mood-killing dialogue about how you shouldn’t worry about that whole “putting in your credit card number” thing, and then they’re out. Like, so out that even after that flurry of hellos and ;-)s for weeks, they both stopped talking to me altogether.
My only regret is that I think I actually may not have done the algorithms justice by getting a bit too straight to the point, and glossed straight past a bunch of branches of their dialogue trees. The bit where “I” invited one to join “my” cam-girl site and she responded by saying “miami” makes me think there’s probably a whole load of “no I actually am a real live girl” conversation I could’ve spun through if both bots weren’t so desperate to Get Things Going.
Just one more thing.
My pal Zane had the funniest final word on the whole thing…
@brandonnn you’re walking through the desert and come upon a tortoise. do you wish you could put you face between its tits?
— Mr. Darcy (@TrainBrzezinski) January 22, 2014
…which I can’t really compete with. But while we’re all on the same page, I also wanna plug my pal Rob Dubbin’s New York Review of Bots blog (“a professional journal of automated-agent studies”), which catalogs a lot of the best advances happening in the Twitter-bot sphere — work far above and beyond a dumb dude cutting and pasting sex chat IMs. (Not coincidentally, Rob also gave birth to @oliviataters, who is for sure my favorite disaffected teen-girl bot on all of Twitter.) Oh, and also, have you ever heard this amazing Voight-Kampff conversation with a telemarketer bot?
Those pregnant pauses! Man, we’re so right at the cusp of a really fantastic future for bot interaction of all proclivities.
Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor (and human) in New York.