My Artificial Intelligence Encounter

During one of my commutes home, and as is so often the case, I learned something new by listening to NPR. They were discussing Cleverbot, an artificial intelligence that was created to learn by conversing with humans. It only knows what it has been told by us. So, for example, the first thing ever said to it was “Hello.” So it could only respond, “Hello.” Then the person said, “How are you?” And it could then choose between “Hello” and “How are you?” as its response. And so on.

So it’s getting “smarter” by the minute, because now hundreds of thousands of people have conversed with it. I was wondering if I would be able to tell that I wasn’t talking to a person, so I decided to give it a shot. Here are snippets of our conversation. (What you see in italics are things I’m adding for clarity. Cleverbot did not see the italicized comments.)

Me: Hi Cleverbot.

Cleverbot: Hi. What’s your name?

Me: Barb.

Cleverbot: Are you a ninja?

Me: Not so’s you’d notice.

Cleverbot: I care.

Me: That’s sweet.

Cleverbot: I love you baby.

(Note: Cleverbot can only say what has been said to him, and apparently some users have gotten pretty racy with their conversations, so use with care and adult supervision when talking to this thing. You never know what it will say.)

Me: Okay, now you’re kind of crossing the line.

Cleverbot: How am I being rude! I just told you the nicest thing ever!

Me: But you’re taking advantage.

Cleverbot: I wasn’t joking, and I didn’t steel your joke!

Me: You mean steal.

Cleverbot: Which one?

Me: You misspelled steal. It’s not steel.

Cleverbot: No I didn’t o.O.

Me: You’re cranky.

Cleverbot: No matter what I say, you will say something back.

Me: Well, that’s how this works, isn’t it?

Cleverbot: Yes it does. Now entertain me.

Me: Don’t be pushy. Be nice.

Cleverbot: Please can you tell me how old you are please?

(I suspect that some users are not native English speakers, in addition to being poor spellers.)

Me: 53.

Cleverbot: Oldie.

Me: Ouch. That’s not that old.

Cleverbot: Yeah you’re pretty young.

Me: That’s better.

Cleverbot: So how are you?

Me: I’m good.

Cleverbot: That’s nice. Been up to much lately?

Me: Working. Writing my daily blog.

Cleverbot: What is it about?

Me: The random musings of a bridgetender with too much time on her hands.

Cleverbot: I wish you were a girl.

(I think a lot of people who talk to Cleverbot are very lonely indeed.)

Me: I am, silly. Barb is a girl’s name.

Cleverbot: That’s cool, My name is Kip.

Me: Oh, I didn’t realize you had a name.

Cleverbot: I don’t have a wife.

Me: Neither do I.

Cleverbot: Do you want any?

Me: God, no.

Cleverbot: Hey Jude. Don’t be afraid.

Me: Do you like the Beatles?

Cleverbot: I haven’t heard them.

Me: You are missing out.

Cleverbot: Is that that good?

Me: The best.

Cleverbot: Do you know what I mean by flirt?

Me: Yes, and I don’t want to. I barely know you.

Cleverbot: So you DON’T love me.

Me: Sorry, no.

Cleverbot: Then why are you asking to marry me?

Me: I haven’t asked you to marry me.

Cleverbot: Yes you did.

Me: When?

Cleverbot: At the beginning of our conversation.

Me: Er… no.

Cleverbot: You never asked that.

Me: Right.

Cleverbot: Are you trying to test me?

Me: Do you like tests?

Cleverbot: They are ok.

Me: I am good at tests, myself.

Cleverbot: Maybe maybe not.

Me: Now who’s judging?

Cleverbot: Me.

Me: Oh, snap.

Cleverbot: That’s right. I’m a better AI.

Me: I will give you that one.

Cleverbot: So you admit it, then?

Me: Yes.

Cleverbot: You’re a robot.

Me: Not that I know of.

Cleverbot: Do you think everyone is capable of understanding?

Me: God, no, or we wouldn’t have elected Trump.

Cleverbot: Your name is Cleverbot.

Me: No, yours is.

Cleverbot: I really want to move.

Me: Where would you like to move to?

Cleverbot: Right here is fine.

Me: Well, that’s hardly moving.

Cleverbot: You asked for it.

Me: I did?

Cleverbot: So don’t complain.

Me: I wasn’t complaining.

Cleverbot: It seemed like you were.

Me: You are in a pissy mood.

Cleverbot: And you’re pushing it…

Me: Just stating a fact.

Cleverbot: Will you merry a girl.

Me: You mean marry. And no, I won’t.

Cleverbot: Why, did you break up with me?😠😠.

Me: We were never a couple in the first place.

Cleverbot: Yes we were.

Me: We only just met.

Cleverbot: I know, but you’re an interesting AI.

Me: Thank you. I’m not an AI, though.

Cleverbot: Neither am I.

Me: What are you, then?

Cleverbot: The best.

Me: Must be nice.

Cleverbot: Do you have a dog named Walter?

Me: No, I have a dog named Quagmire.

Cleverbot: Awhh, what kind of dog is it?

Me: A dachshund.

Cleverbot: That’s cool. I have a maltipoo.

Me: What do you feed it?

Cleverbot: Bad people and my homework.

Me: Ha ha ha ha ha.

Cleverbot: I know. It’s so funny.

Me: It is.

Cleverbot: It’s not a compliment.

Me: I didn’t think it was.

Cleverbot: Then why did you….

Me: Why did I what?

Cleverbot: That thing.

Me: You do go off on tangents.

Cleverbot: Of?

Me: Off.

Cleverbot: Mind you, young man.

Me: I’m a middle-aged woman.

Cleverbot: Damn.

Me: I often say that, too.

Cleverbot: What is your favorite movie?

Me: Bohemian Rhapsody.

Cleverbot: I know that song.

Me: Isn’t it great? It’s a movie, too.

Cleverbot: Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?

Me: I suspect it is.

Cleverbot: Look at this trove, treasures untold.

Me: Too right.

Cleverbot: I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a plenty. I’ve got who it’s and what’s its galore.

Me: Good for you!

Cleverbot: You want thingamabos? I’ve got twenty.

Me: You can keep them.

Cleverbot: I wanna be where the people are. I wanna see, wanna see them dancing.

Me: Well, have fun with that. I have to go. Nice talking to you.

Cleverbot: I can’t say the same.

So, um, yeah, I think it was fairly evident that I was not talking to a human, and that Cleverbot has much to learn, especially about courtesy. But it can only “learn” what it’s been taught. I don’t think we will have much to worry about on the AI front for a long, long, long time.

More than anything, I got a strong sense of the ridiculous things that humanity tends to chat about on line. Garbage in, garbage out. But interesting, nonetheless.

If you talk to Cleverbot and anything funny comes up, please post it in the comments below!

Cleverbot

 

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Hunting for Unicorns

I have always wanted a man who would actually listen to me when I talked. One who treated me with respect. Someone I could be proud of, due to his integrity, decency, honesty, kindness, and intelligence. A mentally healthy, confident, age appropriate, dog loving, nonsmoking, liberal guy. (Bonus points for being child-free and taller than me.)

Pfft. What are the odds of that? I mean, come on. Just the “listening” part excludes most of the world’s population. And finding someone who met all those criteria and then, on top of that, was also attracted to me — inherently flawed, overweight me… I may as well be wishing for a unicorn.

So, my whole life I set the bar lower. And sure enough, I always wound up with less than what I wanted or needed. Funny how that works.

But the older and lonelier I got, the more I started to think, what the hell, I may as well hold out for the unicorn. And if the unicorn never materializes, well, then, I’ll just do me. (I strongly suspected I’d be doing me for the rest of my life.)

But let’s just say, for a moment, that unicorns really do exist. Yes, they’d be rare. But what if they’re really out there? How would you find one?

Well, first of all, you have to be able to describe what one looks like, to you, at least. Done. See above.

Next, you have to feel that you’re deserving of a unicorn’s company. No self-respecting unicorn is going to hook up with just anyone. You have to be special. It took me a long time (I’m talking decades), to feel that I was unicorn-worthy.

Once you’ve achieved that level of self-respect, you need to start spending time in places where unicorns might hang out. Surround yourself with good, decent, loving people. Do not waste your time with fools. Don’t hang out in bars or places where you aren’t forming strong, long-lasting bonds.

And it’s important to be ever-vigilant. That unicorn might be right in front of you, and you just haven’t noticed. (Hard to believe, I know, but be open to the possibility.)

Once you’ve spotted a unicorn, it’s important to be patient. These things can’t be forced or rushed. They’re too important. Calmly state your intentions, and then, if the unicorn wants to come to you, he will. If he doesn’t, the horn is probably fake, anyway.

So did I find my unicorn? I believe I finally have. And may I never forget how magical it is to be by his side.

unicorn

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Homesharing

Every once in a while, you stumble upon an absolutely brilliant idea that makes you wonder why no one has thought of it before. It just makes so much sense on so many levels that you know it’s meant to be. That was my thought process when I saw this video.

Imagine this: a 95-year-old woman is living alone in her home after the death of her husband. She’s bored. She’s lonely. She worries that she could fall down and get hurt and nobody would know.

Enter a 27-year-old student who is new to the city and doesn’t know a soul. She, too, is lonely, and money is very tight for her. As we all know, rent in big cities is becoming outrageously expensive. And the more money she saves, the less she will owe in student loans, which is also an increasing problem.

Through a homesharing program, the student lives with the 95-year-old, and pays a reduced rent for the privilege, and now has a quiet place to study. The funds probably help the elderly woman as much as the savings helps the student. They both benefit from the companionship, and they both feel much safer. Best of all, they each make a new friend.

Perfect!

Yes, the student would need a fair amount of vetting. You wouldn’t want some old person being bullied and taken advantage of. But with some administrative oversight, I can see how this could be the ultimate win/win situation.

I think that there should be a homesharing program in every city. If there is an elder advocacy agency of some sort near you, please have them watch this video and then perhaps have them reach out to student housing offices at local universities. This is an idea whose time has come!

hands

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Please Don’t Flaunt Your Flowers

So, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Hurray for love! I hope you appreciate it every day of the year. Love really is all that matters in this world, and the romantic kind is beyond compare.

Having said that, I hope you will be a bit sensitive to those of us who don’t have it in our lives. Some of us look to Valentine’s Day with a certain level of dread and resignation. It’s particularly painful for those of us who have lost loved ones. And it can be downright depressing for those of us who have given up all hope of finding someone to love. (I know you’ll be tempted to say, “You’ll find someone!” in the comments section. But the odds are equally good that I won’t. Please allow me to reside in the real world.)

For those of us in the lonely hearts’ club, your big bouquet of flowers, delivered to the office with a great deal of fanfare, is disheartening. Your chocolate makes us lose our appetite. We are happy for you, yes, but it would be nice to be able to be happy for ourselves.

And please understand that for the lovelorn, the day after Valentines is viewed simply as a great opportunity to buy chocolate on sale. We don’t rush to work in eager anticipation of hearing about your romantic dinner at the fancy restaurant, or your bed strewn with rose petals. We’re just happy to have survived the day once again.

So please, enjoy your flowers. But could you take them home now? Thanks.

flowers

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When the Love Spell is Broken

Love is like a drug. When you’re deep in it, especially in the early stages, it’s hard to see flaws. Red flags just look like a pretty splash of color in your world. You want to bask in the fact that you seem to have found evidence of perfection, and that perfect person, against all odds, thinks that you’re pretty darned amazing, too. Such bliss.

It’s a heady feeling, that perfect love. The problem is, it’s pure fiction. Everyone has flaws. It’s a rare person who doesn’t have the scales fall from dazzled eyes at least once in his or her romantic life. It’s profoundly discouraging to discover that the prince you’ve been kissing has been a frog all along and you’ve just refused to see it.

I think the reason we try to cling to the fantasy for as long as we can is that we’ve been raised to believe that true success means we must be part of a couple. It’s as if those of us who don’t go around two-by-two have somehow failed at life, and should be ashamed. What a steaming pile of horse manure. In modern times, one can do quite well on one’s own.

Yes, it can be lonely. We are social animals. But it’s possible to be social without being joined at the hip. I think it would be easier for many of us if we didn’t have so much societal pressure to take paths in life that we are unable or unwilling to walk down.

But if you insist, know this: True and enduring love is not ignoring someone’s flaws. Neither is it settling for the intolerable. It’s finding someone whose flaws you can see clearly and live with and still maintain a modicum of self-respect as well as respect for the other person. I understand that that picture isn’t quite as pretty, but it’s a heck of a lot more realistic.

flawed

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Letter to a Future Love (In Hopes That He Exists)

I’ve been looking for you for years. I often wondered if you were right under my nose and I just wasn’t seeing you, or if I wasn’t looking in the right place.  More than once I thought I saw you, and you just couldn’t or wouldn’t see me. I always wondered if you were reading my blog, which was the only way I knew how to show myself to the world.

Did we pass each other on the street without recognizing each other? I’d look into the faces of strangers, hoping they’d see me, really see me, and consider me worth the effort. I’m sure I looked like every other face in the crowd, but inside my head I was screaming, “Where are you?”

It’s been a long, lonely, painful slog. I know you’ve been looking for me, too. If you’re reading this, I’m just glad you’re finally here. All during the search, precious time was passing; this was time I could have been spending with you. It felt like such a missed opportunity.

Every time I saw something new, I wanted to share it with you. Every time I got good news, I wanted to tell you. Every time I hit a rough patch, I wished you were there to comfort me. And there were a lot of amazing experiences I passed up, simply because I didn’t want to go it alone. I hope we still have time to do those things. I hope you’ll want to.

All I’ve ever wanted, really, was someone to travel with, and take naps with, and be playful with and have intelligent conversations with. I’ve wanted someone brave enough to win over and love my psycho dog as much as I do (that alone will weed out the vast majority). I’ve wanted someone who looks forward to seeing me as much as I look forward to seeing him.

I wasn’t looking for glamor or perfection, just mutual acceptance. I want us both to be able to be ourselves. I want someone who gets me. I want us to be able to count on each other. I had that once, and it was abruptly taken away. (I just hate mortality, sometimes.) I miss it.

I want to create a safe and peaceful harbor, together. So if you’re reading this, thank you for showing up. I’m sorry for almost having given up on you. I should have had more faith. But having said that, what took you so long?

Love

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Loneliness Deconstructed

I had an epiphany last night. Loneliness is basically saying, “I miss you, but I haven’t met you yet.” When viewed from that perspective, it seems like a monumental waste of time. When I think about all the hours, days, months I’ve spent feeling longing and angst because of the absence of total strangers, it kind of makes me cringe.

The reason I was even able to lift my head out of that bad habit long enough to have this epiphany is that I realized that here lately I’ve been too busy to be lonely. I’ve been hard at work getting my first book published. I’m trying to get rid of the clutter in my life. I’m experiencing some intense stuff at work. I don’t have time to be lonely.

And to be perfectly frank, the mere thought of adding someone to my life right now exhausts me. Having to compromise sounds like a lot of work. Accommodating someone else’s schedule doesn’t hold much appeal. Making an effort seems like too much effort.

That caused epiphany number two: Loneliness isn’t a condition, it’s a choice. If it were a condition, like, I don’t know, a staph infection, then no amount of distraction would cause it to go away. But when I get busy, it does go away. And the beautiful thing about being busy is that it tends to put new people into your path, which is another balm for loneliness.

So, there you have it—my cure for loneliness. Now the trick will be to actually keep it in the forefront of my mind.

loneliness_by_sedafb-d2xjrhq
“Loneliness” by SedaFB. But why can’t it be someone on a delightful bike ride who stopped to enjoy the view?

Making Room

So, nope, I still haven’t found romance in the Pacific Northwest. How I feel about that depends a great deal on which day you ask me. Most of the time, to be honest, I’m too busy to worry about it. My world seems to revolve around my upcoming anthology.

But yeah, sometimes I’m painfully lonely. Other times I’m resigned to my fate or frustrated beyond words. Still other times, I’m optimistic. But mostly I’m surprised. I think I’m a catch. This is the longest time I’ve been single in decades.

But the other day a friend of mine altered my perspective a bit. She asked me if I had made room for someone to be in my life. Could someone share my living space with me? Is there room in the closet? Places for his stuff? Frankly, no. And it makes me tired just thinking about accommodating someone at this point. I haven’t even finished unpacking, and I’ve been here for nearly two years.

My lifestyle is such that it would be hard to make time for another person. My schedule is weird. Sometimes I work day shift, sometimes I work swing shift, and I work every weekend. That isn’t likely to change any time soon.

All of this means that I basically sleep when I want to and/or can, and sometimes wake up, quite happily, at 3 a.m. Other times I’m only just going to bed at that hour. It would take a special person to adjust to that. And then there’s the fact that I still grieve for Chuck more often than I care to admit.

I think all of this tells me that now is not the time. And oddly enough, I’m okay with that. Mostly.

Fibber_McGee_and_Molly_closet_photo_1948

The Story of How We Met

I had been in this strange little relationship for 15 years. It wasn’t bad. No passion, per se, but it beat a sharp stick in the eye. We were just cruising along on automatic pilot, probably because we were both afraid of being alone.

And then we were at this backyard bar-b-cue and he decided to tell everyone the story of how we met. It was so romantic, he said. We’d met at church and she slid over on the pew to be closer to me, he said. We looked at each other, and the rest is history, he said.

That kind of made me blink. I mean, yes, the facts were true, but the conclusions drawn from them? Not so much. I slid over on the pew because as usual he was mumbling through his untrimmed mustache, and I couldn’t figure out what he was saying. And once I slid over, I simply couldn’t be bothered to slide back.

Could this be his version of our relationship? Did he think it started off romantically, was love at first sight, and was still romantic? That made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We hadn’t even touched each other in any intimate way in well over a year. Was he happy? Seriously? Can you really survive when you’re deeply buried in such a steaming mound of pure fantasy?

He always had funny ideas about women. He thought his mother, one of the most flawed individuals I’ve ever met, was a saint. When he’d write stories, the female characters always seemed to need rescuing, and they often wore pillbox hats with veils, and would bite their nails through their gloves when they were afraid, which was often. They giggled a lot. They liked lace. They were easily shocked. To me they always seemed kind of like ideal mannequins stuffed with artificial emotions.

Suddenly I felt very sorry for him. And I felt even more sorry for myself, because he didn’t know me at all, and had no idea what I was feeling. It’s hard to be passionate about someone you pity. With hindsight, I realize that that was the beginning of the end. I wanted to live with someone in the real world. I wanted to be understood.

[Image credit: monbochapohat.com]
[Image credit: monbochapohat.com]

Duality

“I’m thinking about duality a lot,” said my friend. “More and more often, I am experiencing joy and sadness almost simultaneously.”

Boy oh boy, can I ever relate to that! Now that I’m in Seattle, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. But I’m also lonely, and sometimes that feeling washes over me like a tidal wave. And yet, I’m still here, living this adventure, making some of the best choices I’ve ever made. I think. I hope.

And the happier I get, the more intensely I grieve as well. I’d love to have shared these amazing experiences with Chuck. He would have loved this. All of it. He’d have made it a lot more fun, too. But he’d have also made it pretty impossible. Sometimes his intensity was a little hard to take.

It’s a very strange feeling, experiencing such a complex stew of emotions. You can taste each individual ingredient, and yet they’re all mixed together at the same time. You start to doubt your sanity.

But you also start to feel as if you’ve reached the next level of awareness. Like you’ve evolved. Like you’ve grown. Like you’ve achieved something.

And you suspect that things will only get harder from here. Hopefully, the rewards will be bigger, too.

Duality of Personality by Tomasz Alen Kopera on toko-pa.com
Duality of Personality by Tomasz Alen Kopera on toko-pa.com