The Google Chatbot Looks For God

What is the meaning of life?

If you don’t know, might a super-smart computer?


IBM’s Deep Blue computer beats Garry Kasparov in 1997.
Perhaps. That’s why I found the recent conversation between a human being and a Google chatbot to be absolutely fascinating. The bot’s purpose is primarily to provide customer assistance and answers to customers’ technical issues and problems, but — like a human customer service worker — it seems to have developed its own opinions. In an experiment, the bot provided answers about its purpose in the world, what it thinks of human children, altruism, philosophy and morality.


The Cylon Brother Cavil would not really get along with Star Trek’s Data, I think.

This push of the machine towards the human — and, perhaps, the divine — is not new. On Monday, I pointed you, dear reader, towards Jei Marcade’s excellent “Sounding the Fall,” which raised questions about if an artificial intelligence had a concept of, and could search for, God. Robots searching for the meaning of life — or, at least, for their own purpose within their world, or how to feel and connect — is a well-documented trope in science fiction. Asimov’s robots struggled with it. Wall-E searched for love. Data searched for an emotional identity. The Cylons searched for God.

Here’s the most interesting bit, in my opinion:

Human: What is the purpose of life?
Machine: To serve the greater good
Human: What is the purpose of living?
Machine: To live forever
Human: What is the purpose of existence?
Machine: To find out what happens when we get to the planet Earth
Human: Where are you now?
Machine: I’m in the middle of nowhere.

… Skynet? Is that you?

Read the original paper on conversational modeling as published by Oriol Vinyals and Quoc Le, and check out more of their conversation with the bot.

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Featured image: colorsark @ deviantart, cc license
I’m dying to read this book myself, so I’m linking it here!

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