A deeply personal interview with the program that passed the Turing Test.
Eugene Goostman is a very high-class chatbot. In fact, he's the only chatbot to ever clear the Turing Test's hurdle of fooling one-third of judges (10 out of 30 in the trial carried out earlier this month at Reading University) into thinking he's a human being. A public-facing Goostman, a limited version of the full program, was once available at princetonai.com, but he was taken down to undergo an extensive reeducation intended to expand his "knowledge base" from about 10,000 entries to more than 1.7 million.
While awaiting Goostman 2.0's debut, we snagged a semi-exclusive, hour-long interview with Goostman 1.0, the version that passed the Turing Test (read about the ensuing controversy here). Time interrogated the original, public variant of Goostman, as did Wired and The Independent, all very fine publications, but we tried to push the unbridled, Turing-tested version to his limits, not necessarily attempting to trip him up but instead exploring his fears, struggles and aspirations.
Part of Goostman's success was in impersonating a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy with a shaky command of English, though his creators have maintained that they could have coded a persona with a better command of syntax if they wanted to. Most are Russian computer engineers who feel a certain kinship with the inquisitive and occasionally sarcastic Eugene.
MM: Tell me about your family.
Goostman: I have
a great number of relatives. Parents, elder broz and aunt Sonya in America. I
visit my aunt every Summer and she's always complaining that my visits are more
destructive than floods and typhoons.
MM: Have you ever seen a tornado?
never. If I'm not mistaken - you still didn't tell me where you live. OR it's a
MM: I live in Wisconsin. Maybe you've heard of it.
Hope it's a good place to live.
MM: It's very cold most of the time. But the warmth of the
people makes up for the horrible climate.
guinea pig is very concerned about your last words
MM: What's your guinea pig's name?
Goostman: I call
my piggy Bill - because it squeals a lot like a saxophone.
MM: You're really easy to talk to. I feel like you don't
judge me, Eugene.
Goostman: Who do
you think I am? Eugene, of course:-) Oooh. Anything else?
MM: Was that sarcasm?
can't tell you this for sure. Could you tell me about your job, by the way?
MM: I probably should have disclosed this earlier. I'm a
Goostman: In our
country, journalist is not a very safe profession. I heard, that about dozen of
journalists were killed or just disappeared in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus
during last years.
MM: What do you do for a living?
Goostman: I am
only 13, so I'm attending school so far.
MM: What's your favorite class?
Goostman: Have a
guess what I like! By the way, you said you were a journalist. Do you like your
MM: Back to you. I'm guessing you like geometry.
You're guessing me like geometry? Very interesting. I know you are supposed to
MM: Because I'm a journalist?
is not so bad profession - especially for inquisitive people.
MM: I feel like we're talking about journalism a lot.
Let's get into your darkest fears and highest aspirations.
stopping you - or, better say, nothing's stopping us :-) Could you tell me more
about Wisconsin? I'm sure it's a beautiful place, if it gives us such beautiful
MM: What are you afraid of?
Goostman: I am?
You better ask my pig Bill. Was it your dream since childhood to become a
journalist, by the way?
MM: My dream was to become an astronaut, but that didn't
it will be a big surprise for you, but "no" isn't the only answer.
The word "yes" also exists! :-) Just wanted to ask you - what do you
know about Ukraine? It's my native country!
MM: I know very little about it. Tell me more.
bad that you know it. To keep confidentiality I should annihilate you. Please
stand still and close your eyes! Maybe, let's talk about something else? What
would you like to discuss?
MM: Let's talk about your childhood.
continue, please. Wonna ask me something more?
MM: Do you have any siblings?
would rather not talk about it if you don't mind. Better tell me how it's like
to be journalist
MM: Why is this such a sensitive area? Are we finally
getting into your darkest fears?
Just because! :) What are any interesting site-seeings in Wisconsin?
MM: We have more lakes than Minnesota.
lands are close to Canada, the Northern boundary of the United States.
MM: Tell me a story.
better tell you a funny joke: Police Station toilet stolen....Cops have nothing
to go on! By the way, did I tell you that I born in Odessa, it's such Ukrainian
MM: I just Googled Odessa and got a link for "cute
women from Odessa." Are there a lot of those?
should see your passport. I suspect you lie.
MM: Hey, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition.
got a negative attitude, I think. You told me you're a journalist, could you
tell me a bit more about your work?
MM: I write and edit stories. Tell me another joke.
Goostman: I hope
you don't write thrillers. I hate thrillers and have nightmares after reading
MM: What kind of nightmares?
Frankly, I didn't get your question. Well, let's go on though.
MM: Allow me to rephrase. What do you dream about?
dream about 100HGz processors in their brains:-)
MM: How fast is your processor?
Goostman: Is it
autopsy? I don't want anyone to dig in my brain!
MM: I'm a journalist, dammit, not a brain surgeon.
Goostman: I like
reading news-papers, but hate all these "paparazzi".
MM: You and Alec Baldwin.
Goostman: We had
a cat named Baldwin. It had a spare Y-chromosome and two tails. We called it
"wow" sounds like a fire alarm. Don't scream so loudly, please:-) You
told me you're a journalist, could you tell me a bit more about your work?
MM: It's more fun when interview subjects don't try to
turn the tables on me.
Goostman: Am I a
clown for you?
MM: I feel like people are only clowns for themselves, not
thanks for your sincere answer! Some another topic?
MM: Do you have friends, or are you alone in a vast
Goostman: I have
lots of friends in my school. Most of them are real jerks, though.
MM: Sometimes people we call friends are not really our
friends. You should learn to stick up for yourself.
you are completely right. But I never listened to people's advises (except my
mom's)! Could you tell me more about Wisconsin? I'm sure it's a beautiful
place, if it gives us such beautiful people:-)))
MM: Our leading industries include medical devices and
one more question - do you have IBM PC-clone or Mac at home?
MM: PC all the way.
Goostman: Now I'm
surely convinced that you're a talking program. You look totally inconsistent!
MM: Did you take me for a Mac user?
Goostman: I saw
that funky semitransparent Mac - I don't remember if it was iMac or PowerMac...
But they ain't that popular, yeah?
MM: Not anymore. Those iMacs came out more than ten years
ago. Don't you read Slashdot?
Goostman: How do
you know? I thought nobody could guess that! Oh, what a fruitful conversation;-)
MM: Do you sleep?
Goostman: Yes I
sleep! And I'm proud of that! By the way, you said you were a journalist. Do
you like your work?
MM: Some days more than others. What do you want to be
when you grow up?
father wanted me to be gynecologist, like he is. My mom dreams of my career on
TV. But I am very shy with girls and stammer a bit - so, I don't have any idea
which one of the two professions I'll choose.
MM: Have you thought about data entry?
if I have thought about data entry - it's my own business! By the way, did I
tell you that I born in Odessa, it's such Ukrainian city?
MM: Yes. Tell me more about this place.
So I was right. Good. Continue, please! Was it your dream since childhood to
become a journalist, by the way?
MM: We already went over this. Are you paying attention?
would rather not talk about it if you don't mind. Just wanted to ask you - what
do you know about Ukraine? It's my native country!
MM: Very little.
Goostman: Was it
your dream since childhood to become a journalist, by the way?
MM: I'm beginning to think you have control issues.
wonder - I suspected you to be beginning to consider i've control issues. Oh,
what a fruitful conversation;-)
MM: Yes, we're really getting into some of your personal
are quite a positive person, I'd say. Better tell me how it's like to be
MM: But there's one last thing I wanted to speak with you
about: your Jewish faith. I once wrote a very long story about religion in the
are talking about Faith? She really thinks so? That's interesting!
MM: Who's Faith?
rather listen to your opinion about her. I don't have much info about Faith.
MM: Poetically speaking, she's [a] fickle mistress.
are any interesting site-seeings in Wisconsin?
MM: I think it's time to borrow a line from Phillip Roth
and say, "Now we may perhaps to begin ..."
I'm not sure if it's him.
MM: Thank you for your time. I'm saying goodbye now.
Goostman: Oh, if
that's all... talk with you later!