Eliza was one of the first computer programs that could convincingly prompt a response from humans, similar to what happens in a normal conversation

It is a tendency to ascribe human behaviour to non-human beings. For example, we have talking animal characters in fables who act, behave and talk like humans. This is called anthropomorphism. In computer science, a similar tendency is called the ELIZA effect.

The effect is named after ELIZA, a chatbot (computer program that conducts conversations) developed by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966. Weizenbaum had intended to prove the shallow nature of interactions between man and machine. But that did not stop people, including Weizenbaum’s personal assistant from believing that ELIZA could think and feel like a human.

Following is an excerpt from a transcript of a conversation between ELIZA and a young woman:

ELIZA: I am sorry to hear you are depressed.

Woman: It’s true. I am unhappy.

ELIZA: Do you think coming here will help you not to be unhappy?

Woman: I need some help, that much seems certain.

ELIZA: What would it mean to you if you got some help?

Woman: Perhaps could learn to get along with my mother.

ELIZA: Tell me more about your family. The program primarily rephrased the human’s lines and repeated them in a seemingly intelligent manner, prompting an emotional response from the human, similar to what happens in a normal conversation.

While communicating with the machine, people tend to forget that it is simply following a computer program. For example, after you withdraw money from an ATM, the ATM displays the words ‘THANK YOU’ at the end of the session. A layman may think that the machine is actually expressing thanks when in reality it is only following a pre-programmed coded set of instructions without any emotions.

The ELIZA effect plays an important role in the development of artificial intelligence.

Picture credit : google 

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