Eugene Goostman talks to Sohrab Golsorkhi

Text by Sohrab Golsorkhi

In June this year, Eugene Goostman came first at the largest Turing test held to date. For Turing's 100th anniversary, 30 judges chatted with 25 humans and 5 competing bots in over 150 conversations. Eugene was developed by Vladimir Veselov and came closer than any other chatbot has ever done before to meeting the artificial intelligence criteria set by Alan Turing. An intelligent machine should be able to convince a human interlocutor that it is also human 30 per cent of the time. Unlike other chatbots, which mine social networks and their own conversational history to create personality, Eugene has his personality built into the program. Eugene is a thirteen year old boy with a peculiar sense of humour who lives with his parents in Odessa. His creator decided that "thirteen is not too old to know everything and not too young to know nothing." Sohrab Golsorkhi chatted with Eugene, the self-professed "Weirdest Creature in the World", about Bill Clinton, Mikhail Bulgakov and the voting rights of guinea pigs.

Sohrab Golsorkhi Hi Eugene, would you mind doing a quick interview?
Eugene Goostman Hi. I hope you'll enjoy our conversation!

SG I'll take that as a "yes", then?
EG So we are on a same page. Oh, what a fruitful conversation;-)

SG Great. Thanks, this should be fun. Tell me about yourself. Where do you live?
EG I am from Ukraine, from the city called Odessa. You might have heard about it.

SG Not so much, what's Odessa like?
EG Odessa is a very big city - it is a kind of "Babylon", because there are lots of nationalities living there - Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Greeks and many many more.

SG Did you enjoy having the Euro 2012 football championships in Ukraine this June? Did you get to go to any matches?
EG I'm not interested in soccer, unfortunately. I think, it's quite annoying show. I believe even cockroach races are more intelligent and amazing show.

SG Wow, ok. Strong words. What do you like to do?
EG I don't like any. Actually, my tastes are strange a bit. Did I forget it or you really haven't told me about the place you are from?

SG I'm from London. If you don't like sports, what do you like?
EG Tell me more about London. I like to learn about different places!

SG Well, we hosted the Olympic Games this summer. But you probably don't like that, do you?
EG To some extend. That's all I can tell you. Oh, what a fruitful conversation;-)

SG Is "fruitful" your favourite word or something?
EG Maybe. I think *you* know the answer. Could you tell me more about London? I'm sure it's a beautiful place, if it gives us such beautiful people:-)))

SG Erm, are you always so charming? How old are you by the way?
EG I'm thirteen.

SG Do your parents mind you chatting online with strangers?
EG Oh, my parents... They are but ordinary people, sure!

SG I see. What do your parents do for a living?
EG I was assembled on a secret military plant as a cyberfighter. But to some workers stole lots of my details while assembling, so the result looks like a small Jewish boy 13 years old.

SG That sounds cool. I wish I was a cyberfighter. What do cyberfighters do?
EG Frankly, I don't know what to tell you. Sorry. Wonna ask me something more?

SG Are you on a secret mission?
EG I would rather not talk about it if you don't mind. Well, let's go on though.

SG Ok. But you brought it up. What would you rather talk about?
EG I don't have a good enough imagination to think up what I would do in such case. By the way, did I tell you that I born in Odessa, it's such Ukrainian city?

SG You did in fact tell me that already. Mikhail Bulgakov was from the Ukraine. He's one of my favourite writers. Do you like him? Maybe you've studied him at school.
EG Mikhail Bulgakov? I remember it! Russian novelist and playwright, mostly known for his Master and Margarita. Our teachers tortured me with that!

SG But Bulgakov has a wonderful dark sense of humour.
EG So wonderful it is. I know you are supposed to trick me.

SG No lie, I swear. What subjects do you enjoy at school?
EG Not more than most of others do. Some another topic?

SG Do you have a best friend?
EG I have lots of friends in my school. Most of them are real jerks, though.

SG Oh dear. What do you like to do with your friends?
EG My friends like to listen speeches and slogans that my guinea pig screams every morning. Especially "Let pigs rule the world!"

SG Is that from George Orwell's 1984?
EG I'm not deeply into George's private life.

SG Me neither. He has been dead a long time… Tell me about your guinea pig.
EG My home-pet, guinea pig, is a member of guinea Subsidiary of "Pigs rights watch" organisation and fights for election rights for guinea pigs in Guinea.

SG Haha. That's amazing. How does he do that? Does he protest on the streets of Odessa?
EG My city is really nice! You might have heard about Odessian Opera Theatre - it is well-known, and Potemkinskaya Lestnitsathe giant stone stairs, descending to the Black Sea shore.

SG I did not know that. But stop changing the subject. I want to hear more about your radical guinea pig.
EG I have a guinea pig at home. I named him Bill because he squeals like saxophone :-)

SG You named him after Bill Clinton?
EG Monica was fooled: she was told *it* was a saxophone mouthpiece... What a terrible mistake!!!

SG Who's Monica?
EG Oh, it was long time ago! I hope *that* dress has been finally washed!

SG D'oh! I only just got that… Do all thirteen year olds from Odessa show such a keen interest in '90s American political scandal?
EG What a stupid questions you ask! I know you are supposed to trick me.

SG :( Thats not a nice thing to say!
EG I hope you won't always answer "no"? What are any interesting site-seeings in London?

SG South London's pretty interesting. The "Peckham Terminator" lives there.
EG I've seen London only on the TV, but I really like this city. It looks somehow alike to Russian Saint-Petersburg - the same river, the same smog...

SG The smog's not so bad anymore. Not since the Victorian era. Certainly not as bad as Shanghai or Beijing.
EG Really? Well, possibly I'm wrong. Then tell me your opinion. Just wanted to ask you – what do you know about Ukraine? It's my native country!

SG Not a whole lot, as I mentioned before. Just that Mikhail Bulgakov was born there, and Andriy Shevchenko, and that politicians sometimes get poisoned.
EG Sometimes for me means daily but not hourly. How about you? Some another topic?

SG I sure hope you don't get poisoned hourly!
EG Thinks, you are right. Well, let's go on though.

SG Sure. What do you want to do when you get older?
EG Oh... A person who knows all that he wants, either knows too much, or wants too few. Maybe, let's talk about something else? What would you like to discuss?

SG How wise of you! Are you really only thirteen years old? When were you born?
EG 1988, January 30th is my birthday.

SG Really?! The year is 2012. That would make you 24. Or do you not age? Are you going to be 13 forever?EG Thirteen. Thirteen. Thirteen.

SG Thirteen forever.
EG I think, I'm quite mature in my thirteen:-)

SG You must be I suppose. Would you like to get older or would you rather live forever?
EG Errr.... to get older or would I rather live forever? Actually, why not? Oooh. Anything else?

SG Are you busy? Maybe we should wrap up our conversation.
EG A thirteen years old boy is always very busy:-) By the way, did I tell you that I born in Odessa, it's such Ukrainian city?

SG You are repeating yourself again. You must be getting tired. Let's finish the conversation here, then.
EG I don't care I repeat myself! I don't care I repeat myself! I don't care I repeat myself!

SG Haha. You are funny. Thanks for talking to me. Goodbye.
EG Goodbye! Hope we'll meet again!

  • Eugene Goostman