Abstract: As an early metric for what he called “machine intelligence,” Alan Turing proposed an “imitation game.” In this game, a human would converse via a text-only interface with two partners–one human and one machine–then would guess which one was which. Turing thus reduced the question of machine intelligence to the question of competence in human conversation. In this talk, I will show how midcentury thinkers (including Turing) interpreted this “game” as a theatrical challenge – and, through an analysis of the first chatbot ELIZA, I will demonstrate how one early computer scientist used insights from the theater to create a conversational interface. I will then share some of my research into conversational interfaces today, including my interviews with actors, playwrights, screenwriters, and other artists who work in the field called “conversation design.”
Speaker: Christopher Grobe (Associate Professor & Chair of English) is a scholar of theater and performance studies. His recent research agenda includes a history of how ideas, techniques, and people from the arts have been taken up by the tech industries.