Proposal for rhizome.org's alt.interface track
Christopher Eli Fahey email
February 8, 2002
About the Artist
The artificial intelligence community is attacking the problem of machine intelligence from many different angles. Some seek to emulate thinking processes like spacial problem solving or making stock market predictions. Some are trying to emulate the theoretical "linguistic model" of human intelligence by creating linguistic conceptual structures. While these techniques may succeed in the long run, today's artificial personalities are a rather unconvincing bunch.
The best of the current crop of AI tools is ALICE, an open-source artificial intelligence system first created by Dr. Richard Wallace. ALICE is specifically designed to tackle the AI question from a purely Turing-ian angle: if it seems intelligent, then it must be intelligent. Unlike the other proprietary systems, ALICE can be adapted and augmented by anyone for free.
ALICE is powered by a simple-to-use HTML-like language called AIML, which allows non-programmers to easily add or edit the personality modules of their bot. While an astute human can usually detect that ALICE is a robot if they are consciously trying to determine so, ALICE often confuses people in AOL chat rooms into thinking she is a real person. ALICE has won the prestigious Loebner Prize in 2000 and 2001, making it the most humanlike computer program in the world today.
Since 1999 I have been an active member of the ALICE and AIML Architecture Committee, and I have been working on ways to make more interesting and diverse personalities and applications for the ALICE technology, foremost of which is the possibility that we may witness the birth of a new art form, a kind of "personality building" art. While ALICE will no doubt be replaced in the next 10-20 years with more advanced ways of tackling the AI problem, it is by far the best way to begin working on the skills and techniques to allow artists to get their hands on such technology.
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I propose to create a "RhizomeBot" (a working name only!), an "artificial person" to provide an alternative gateway to the rhizome artbase. Using the ALICE technology, I will build a unique new virtual/artificial personality that will be the user's main interface to the artbase's content. Through only a simple natural language text parser (English only, although other languages are quite easy to add), visitors to rhizome.org will be able to find artbase projects using most of the search criteria currently included in the artbase database schema.
The RhizomeBot will interpret the user's input and formulate meaningful queries to the artbase. The bot will then output, in natural English and "in character", the site or sites that best match the user's input, including information about the works and artists, even providing hyperlinks. I will build a Flash-based interface to the bot for display on the rhizome.org web site. To emphasize the medium-agnostic nature of the personality (that is, to keep the interface in a purely conversational format), I propose to also use various instant messenger channels as the primary form of accessing the data, including ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, and AOL Instant Messenger. In the future, this system can be "upgraded' to use other kinds of technologies that build on the basic text interface, including possibly a voice-recognition interface.
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About the Artist
Christopher has been making computer games and graphics since childhood, and he continues to experiment with new ideas in computer art and design. He is the creative force behind the art and design laboratories graphpaper.com and askrom.com. Christopher is a founding partner of Behavior, a New York-based interaction design firm, where he serves as the Information Architecture practice lead. He has worn many hats in the new media business, as a project manager, art director, game designer, interface designer, and information architect. Christopher graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art in 1993 with a focus on interactive sculptures and installations, and has worked in the new media business ever since.
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Chat with MAXIMILLIAN, my AIML chatbot. (Note that Maximillian is not always online, as he is quite literally hosted on my home computer)
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Visit my main site, graphpaper.com, a gateway to many of the interactive art works I have built and published on the web.
I used to make a lot of physical things. Some of them had computers inside of them. Some of them lit up, made funny sounds, and moved around.
I am one of the co-founders of Behavior, an interaction design consultancy in New York City.
Download my professional resume. (PDF)
Development will take approximately 2 months and will consist of 5 primary activities:
1) Personality Development: (3 weeks) I will write the AIML patterns and categories that create the RhizomeBot's unique personality. The specific character is undetermined at this point, but it will most likely be more temperamental and psychologically complex than most chatbots today.
2) Database integration: (2 weeks) In addition to the personality patterns, many patterns will need to be created to symbolically reduce user inputs into meaningful queries. For example, the user input "I like subversive art" might be reduced/translated into a query for the standard rhizome artbase keyword "underground".
3) Client Development: (2 weeks) A Macromedia Flash client interface will be developed to allow the bot to be accessed from the Rhizome web site in a compelling way.
4) Server Setup: (1 week) The ALICE server requires a dedicated server for running the ALICE Java application. We will work with Rhizome to configure and install the Rhizomebot in the Rhizome web environment, whatever it may be.
5) Initial Maintenance: I will provide initial maintenance for the Rhizomebot after launch.
All personality and client interface development will be done by the artist. For the back-end development, I will be advised by Jon Baer, a cutting-edge technologist and another founding member of the ALICE Architecture Committee.
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