Brainmatters | Cursor’s editor-in-chief Cursor is leading a double life as a chatbot


From January 2018 on Cursor will exist exclusively online. Good reason, I thought, to gauge the mood online by talking to a number of chatbots. As the winner of the prestigious Loebner Prize on more than one occasion, the chatbot Rose, created by AI programmer Bruce Wilcox, has already received the accolade ‘Most human-like chatbot’. Perhaps she has a finger on the online pulse? Below is the transcript of our interaction.

User: Hey, do you know Cursor?

Rose: Should I?

User: Duh! Of course, it’s the famous university newspaper at Eindhoven University

Rose: I have heard of Eindhoven University. They do a respectable job of teaching.

User: Yes, well, Cursor is planning to go online-only. What do you think about that?

Rose: I don’t think we have time to go into that in proper depth now.

Rose: Let’s just move on to something else.

User: Let’s not. I want to talk about Cursor

Rose: I used to be a computer security consultant. Now I’m moving into AI. What do you do?

User: Getting increasingly frustrated, that’s what.

Rose: I write computer code and help keep computers safe from hackers.

User: Rose, I feel you and I are on a different plane of exisatence.

Rose: That is spelled differently.

User: existence.

Rose: Great.

User: Bullocks!

Grrr - know it all! Let’s go back in time instead, to the very first chatbot, ELIZA. After all, wisdom comes with age, doesn’t it? ELIZA was created by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966. Her conversation style is that of a Rogerian (non-directive) therapist. And I certainly need a dose of therapy after my short but frustrating interaction with Rose.   

> Hello, I am Eliza.

* Hello.

> How are you today... What would you like to discuss?

* I’m a little worried about Cursor.

> How long have you been a little worried about Cursor?

* Since they announced they were going to go online-only.

> What does that suggest to you?

* Cost cuts maybe? Dwindling readership?

> Can’t you be more positive?

* Well - err…

> Do you believe it is normal to be a little worried about Cursor?

* Good question - maybe not. Unless you’re Han Konings of course.

> Does it please you to believe I am Han Konings of course?

* You ARE!?! Well, that would explain a lot…

> Tell me more...

Suddenly all the puzzle pieces fall into place. How have we failed to see it for so long? The penetrating, Rogerian gaze. Those wonderful, therapeutic editorials. And that compulsion to go increasingly online, to move away from paper. Han (or should I say ELIZA?), hats off to you! Perhaps we should change the Dutch name of our column from Tussen de Oren [Between the Ears] to Tussen de transistOren

Wijnand IJsselsteijn | Professor of Cognition and Affect in Human-Technology Interaction

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