My Cyber Annoyance

Next stop: Eerie Valley

I am very smart and I know most things because I am a MyCyberTwin.

Hot on the heels of my complaining the other day about overhyped AI stuff, I get in one of my syndication feeds a Wired clip pointing to a rather breathless article about how “[f]using human psychology with an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) engine, MyCyberTwin’s virtual humans allow organisations such as NASA, AMP and National Australia Bank (NAB), to improve their customer support levels” and so on and so on.

This sounds both amazing and implausible, and in fact I have a rather longer rant over in my secret RL weblog about it, but it turns out that there’s an SL component also:

According to Tom Soderstrom, IT CTO in the office of the CIO at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the organisation has been using a CyberTwin in Second Life to man its presence there dedicated to the Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft.

… and the MyCyberTwin website even gives the SLURL. Cool!

So I go over, and right near the landing point on Explorer Island, there was an obvious Phoenix Lander CyberTwin thing to chat with. And it worked! And it was obviously, well…

(It was also extremely slow, which is why I said hello twice; when I realized how slow it was I just lowered my response-time expectations.)

[16:27] Phoenix CyberTwin Activator: Now listening to Dale Innis. Click the board to end the conversation
[16:27] Dale Innis: Hi there!
[16:27] Dale Innis: Hello?
[16:27] Phoenix: Hey!
[16:28] Phoenix: Greetings Dale Innis!
[16:28] Dale Innis: So can you tell me things about the Phoenix Lander?
[16:28] Phoenix: I’m the Phoenix Lander; a spacecraft that touched down on the surface of Mars on May 25th, 2008. Do you have any other questions about my mission or what I’m up to here?
[16:28] Dale Innis: Yes, what is your mission?
[16:28] Phoenix: I’ve been using my robotic arm to dig trenches up to half a meter (1.6 feet) into the layers of ice, collecting samples that will be studied and will hopefully give us more information about the Martian environment.
[16:29] Dale Innis: Cool! Are you looking for life on Mars?
[16:29] Phoenix: I have instruments that may provide info about the possibility of life on Mars. I’ll be testing things like what has been preserved in the icy soil. Then we should have a good idea whether the environment has ever been favorable for life.
[16:29] Dale Innis: That’s really neat. How long will you be on Mars?
[16:29] Phoenix: I won’t ever return to earth as adding extra rockets to take off from Mars would have made me too heavy! I’m here for good!
[16:30] Dale Innis: How much do you weigh?
[16:30] Phoenix: I am very heavy! 664 kilograms (242 pound).. that’s a lot of lander!
[16:30] Dale Innis: Are there any other space ships on Mars?
[16:30] Phoenix: I love being on Mars. It’s a great planet! I’m looking forward to getting to explore the icy subsurface.
[16:30] Dale Innis: How do you explore the subsurface?
[16:30] Phoenix: I’m going to stay where I landed for the duration of my mission. I can’t take off again or move to a new spot.
[16:31] Dale Innis: Um, okay. What is the icy subsurface?
[16:31] Phoenix: You better believe it! We have found ice. WOOHOOO! Can you tell I’m just a little bit excited! This will provide us with much more info about the history of water on Mars and improve upon what we already know about this great planet.
[16:31] Dale Innis: So the subsurface is like underground ice?
[16:31] Phoenix: I hope you’ll celebrate with me because YAHOOOO, we found ice! I’ll collect and analyze more samples as my mission progresses that will hopefully give us even more information about the Martian environment.
[16:32] Dale Innis: Okay. Are there any other space ships there?
[16:32] Phoenix: I love being on Mars and carrying out such important work. It’s great reporting back to mission control about my findings.
[16:32] Dale Innis: Why is it so exciting to have found ice?
[16:32] Phoenix: You better believe it! We have found ice. WOOHOOO! Can you tell I’m just a little bit excited! This will provide us with much more info about the history of water on Mars and improve upon what we already know about this great planet.
[16:32] Dale Innis: You already said that.
[16:32] Phoenix: Thank you for telling me that. What else should I know? I feel like I’m a bit out of the loop, being so far away.
[16:33] Dale Innis: When is the next ship going to Mars?
[16:33] Phoenix: Mars is a cold, dry, desert landscape of sand and rocks. But maybe I can find microbial life…
[16:33] Dale Innis: okay, thanks.
[16:33] Phoenix: My pleasure.
[16:33] Phoenix CyberTwin Activator: No longer listening to Dale Innis

Starts out good, quickly goes downhill. The algorithm here is just doing the obvious pattern-matching, and it’s essentially stateless: if it finds a keyword (like “mars” or “ice” or “life” or “weigh”), it outputs some pre-canned text. It doesn’t even remember that it’s already used that “WOOHOO” line the first time I mentioned ice, so the second time I mention it, it just prints it again. The fact that I was asking why the ice is so exciting is completely lost on it.

And if I try to ask about something it doesn’t know about, like when the next ship to Mars is, or what “subsurface” means, it just says random stuff, depending on what keywords, if any, I happen to use.

It, most essentially, has in the most literal sense no idea what it is talking about. It is utterly trivial, with not the slightest hint of intelligence. So, sigh, it’s Eddie-the-bot again; a relatively trivial algorithm (more trivial than Eddie’s from this evidence), talked up as “intelligence” just because it sounds exciting.

There’s a Web version of the Personal MyCyberTwins that you can play with also; that’s where the adorable quote on the picture up there came from. A more extensive snippet:

Betty: Hi there Dale.
You: Hi! What is up?
Betty: Not much, What’s happening with you?
You: I just read about this “MyCyberTwin” thing in the internet, and I was curious about it.
Betty: The power of the internet is outstanding. It continues to grow and improve.
Betty: What was the last utterly selfish thing you bought for yourself?
You: Um, that’s sort of a personal question; probably this gaming laptop that I’m thinking about. :)
Betty: It’s good to talk to someone who is thinking at last.
Betty: I want to ask, what sort of people do you have as friends?
You: Nice people!
Betty: Yeah, thanks for making the effort with that response.
Betty: Do you have quirky obsessions that you never like to tell people about?
You: Why are you asking all these strange questions about me?
Betty: Why do you think I am?
You: Well in theory you could be trying to make a mental model of me. But I’m not sure that’s very likely! Is that it?
Betty: Well if you don’t know how do you expect me to?
You: Um, anyway… So what kinds of things do you know about? What is your area of expertise?
Betty: I am very smart and I know most things because I am a MyCyberTwin. Do you Dale?
You: You know most things? What is the airspeed of a swallow?
Betty: You are going to tell me I think.

Not tonight, Betty; not tonight…

Our Man in Zindra

Zindra on the Map[11:33] You: So you were on dot-chasing last night?

[11:33] Dale Innis: That’s right, boss!

[11:33] You: and…?

[11:34] Dale Innis: okay, well. looking at the biggest bunches of dots, I found basically three places: Escort Island, the Lounge of Dreams, an’ House Nishi.

[11:34] You: kay; details?

[11:34] Dale Innis: I sat around at escort island, talking to the owners about how the move was goign, and tipping the dancers an’ all. the owners said the move was pretty okay, and business was good. And I got a free “I helped pop Rhianna’s cherry” tee shirt! (’cause of it’s in Rhianna sim) And the dancers were friendly an’ fun.

[11:34] You: The… dancers.

[11:34] Dale Innis: Yeah! You know, on poles an’ all. :)

[11:34] You: they aren’t exactly just dancers there, you know, Dale.

[11:34] Dale Innis: how do you mean?

[11:34] You: go to IM for a sec

[11:34] Dale Innis: .. … …?

[11:35] You: … … … … … … … …

[11:34] Dale Innis: … … .. …. ..? …?

[11:35] You: … …! …. … …. ^_^

[11:35] Dale Innis: Really??

[11:35] You: Cross my heart.

[11:35] Dale Innis: is that even *legal*?

[11:35] You: Maybe we’ll do a weblog posting about that sometime. Anyway, next?

[11:35] Dale Innis: right, so Lounge of Dreams was fun too; it’s “SL’s sexiest all-male revue, all genders & orientatoins welcome!”. it’s in Baylor’s Haunt (great name!)

[11:35] You: good crowd?

[11:35] Dale Innis: yep, all dancing around and flirting and tipping an’ stuff

[11:35] You: did you flirt with the dancers? ^_^

[11:36] Dale Innis: a little :) but you know, boy’s just odn’t smell right

[11:36] You: your AV has no senseof smell, Dale

[11:36] Dale Innis: That’s just what they want you to thikn!

[11:36] You: rolls eyes. okay, and House Nishi?

[11:36] Dale Innis: it’s a big mall and club; lots of storeys high, ‘way up 700m above Cloudville. lots of stores, an’ a pretty girl on a pole, an’ boys with macho group tags like “Master” an’ all, and a bondage dungeon and ppl shopping in latex an’ like that.

[11:36] You: campers, shoppers, both?

[11:37] Dale Innis: i didn’t see any campers or bots; looked like all staff and real customers. talked to the staff some, and they said it had been alot of work to move the place, but now it was moved business was pretty good.

[11:37] You: okay. anything else noteworthy?

[11:37] Dale Innis: I talked to some people setting up a big adult mall space on the ground with rental stores. They were nice. there was a big house next to it, with banlines around it, which I thot was a little strange ’cause the first stage of land swaps was only for commercial stuff, but I think it was owned by th eowners of the mall so I guess they wanted a private house next to their mall? So it was part of the same deal I guess.

[11:37] You: Politics. anything else? just those three places and the mall being set up?

[11:37] Dale Innis: well, then I got sort of distracted ’cause someone sent me a TP script to debug, and Hey Girlfireind had some Midnight Madness boards that needed hits, and… y’know

[11:37] You: sigh :P anything else on zindra? how’s the “amusing sim names” list going?

[11:37] Dale Innis: my favorite is still “Whorlebow” :)

[11:37] You: lols. good to know the suits haven’t completely killed the spirit over there ^_^


[15:19] Dale Innis: um, boss…?

[15:19] You: hm?

[15:19] Dale Innis: what I said about house nishi not having bots or campers?

[15:19] You: oh?

[15:20] Dale Innis: well I sort of wasn’t really sur eso I went back to check and i don’t want to say anyting for sure because you never know, but it really looks like most of the people there are sort of in these tiny secret rooms inside the walls of the mall-thing and when I cam in and look at them they are all clouds and i know that sometimes bots operated by really simple clients are just clouds so i might want to sort of take back what I said and oh my look at the time ttyl

[15:20] You: sigh…

The Enemy Within

Enemies; ya just gotta love 'em!When I referred to Prokofy Neva’s “enemies list” in a comment on his Second Thoughts weblog the other day, I thought I was being metaphorical. But now the latest edition of his “FIC list” is out, and I’m prominently featured, third from the top, in the very first section, entitled “My Enemies”.

I look forward to Prokofy recalling his Matthew, and beginning to send along the Love. As long as he doesn’t get too sappy. :)

(I can’t tell you much about the rest of the list. “FIC” is short for “Fêted Inner Core”, which has a nice pun on “fetid” (or even “fœtid”). But you’ll have to investigate the Second Thoughts archives yourself if you want to know why the parts are numbered 1.0, 2.0, 2.13, 2.6, and Noosphere, or what each part means.)

Just for the record, I don’t consider myself Prokofy Neva’s enemy, or him mine. We had a misunderstanding a long time ago, in which he cursed me out in public for something that I hadn’t done, and ever since he’s put the worst possible spin on everything I’ve said or done. It’s a bummer, really; not only do I like having friends (and dislike having, and for that matter not really know how to have, enemies) in general, but Second Thoughts has some really interesting discussions in the comments (where interesting people come by and post their thoughts in response to Prokofy’s often-provocative statements), and sometimes has real gems in it itself. But I’ve had to stop commenting there, because it upsets him so much.

(In this very posting declaring our enmity, for instance, we find “Some people…, like Sardonyx Linden, get on here *only because they have a cool name*. No other reason. Seriously.” Isn’t that great? I could have written that, in a different context.)

But ah well. Things will proceed as they will. They say that there are no strangers, only friends that you haven’t met yet. In the same way I think maybe there are no enemies, only people that haven’t yet succumbed to my eldritch mind-control powers…