Eliza, 140 characters at a time

Nick Carr has a fascinating essay in Edge Magazine on the history of ELIZA, the software program that simulated intelligence, and its creator Joseph Weizenbaum who passed away recently. ELIZA represents the frontier that computer science must cross if someday to arrive at true intelligence – ELIZA itself is merely artificial, but still certainly intelligent enough to have fooled a lot of (presumably) genuine intelligences.

However, in one of those weird quirks of computer life, Nick appears to have also posted the entire essay about ELIZA onto his Twitter account. Given Twitter’s 140 character limit, this means that almost every sentence in the essay was posted as its own tweet. The effect is strangely hypnotic. Whereas reading the original at Edge gives a sense of cohesion and narrative, reading it on Twitter makes it discrete and disjointed, even though the sentences are still adjacent.

In a way, the context of the content affects its meaning. Is that a limitation of our brains? Or of the medium?