Richard Wallace



Title: The Anatomy of A.L.I.C.E.


Abstract:  This is a technical presentation of A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) and AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language), set in context by historical and philosophical ruminations on human

A.L.I.C.E., the first AIML-based personality program, won the Loebner Prize as "the most human computer" at the annual Turing Test contests in 2000 and 2001. The program, and the organization that develops it, is a product of the world of free software. More than 500 volunteers from around the world have contributed to her

This talk describes the history of A.L.I.C.E. and AIML free software since 1995, noting that the theme and strategy of deception and pretense upon which AIML is based can be traced through the history of artificial intelligence research.

This paper goes on to show how to use AIML to create robot personalities like A.L.I.C.E.
that pretend to be intelligent and self-aware.

The bot 'personality' is a set of AIML files consisting of simple stimulus-response modules called categories. Each <category> contains a <pattern>, or "stimulus", and a <template>, or "response".  AIML software stores the stimulus-response categories in a tree managed by an object called the Graphmaster. When a bot client inputs text as a stimulus, the Graphmaster searches the categories for a matching <pattern>, along with any associated context, and then outputs the associated <template> as a response.

These categories can be structured to produce more complex humanlike responses with the use of a very few markup tags. AIML bots make extensive use of the multi-purpose recursive <srai> tag, as well as two AIML context tags, <that> and <topic>. Conditional branching in AIML is implemented with the <condition> tag. AIML implements the ELIZA personal pronoun swapping method with the <person> tag.

Bot personalities are created and shaped through a cyclical process of supervised learning
called Targeting.  Targeting is a cycle incorporating client, bot, and botmaster, wherein
client inputs that find no complete match among the categories are logged by the bot and
delivered as Targets the botmaster, who then creates suitable responses, starting with the most common queries. The Targeting cycle produces a progressively more refined bot personality. The art of AIML writing is most apparent in creating default categories,
which provide noncommittal replies to a wide range of inputs.

The talk winds up with a survey of some of the philosophical literature on the
question of consciousness. We consider Searle's Chinese Room, and the view that natural language understanding by computer is impossible. We note that the proposition consciousness is an illusion" may be undermined by the paradoxes it apparently implies.  We conclude that A.L.I.C.E. does pass the Turing Test, at least, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, for some of the people some of the time.