It started out with some exploratory reserach on the Eliza
scripts that were floating around. I ran them past my advisor, Dr. Lieke at MIT, and he said to pursue it.
Two years, and numerous grants later, we have an entire cage full of computers running thousands of complex versions of the original Eliza scripts. We started out using USENET as a data source, recording nightly dumps of over 20,000 newsgroups. They were the source for the natural sounding sentences, the range of personalities, the political spectrum, and the various shades of anger, happiness, and delight.
It took a bit to get started, and occasionally we'd rope in someone real to interact with the scripts. I told Dr. Lieke we should end it right then and there. It was a great experiment, I was going to get my PhD with some groundbreaking CS and Sociology research, but it could hurt people to be involved. He convinced me that if the scripts were smart enough, they could "learn" from the real humans and we'd enter into the annals of AI research.
And so, that's where it began. It grew as our budget grew, eventually a rack at exodus was filled with Solaris and Windows servers doing various levels of the heavy work. It's quite a sight really, you should see the e4500
we're running the Oracle database that holds all of the "Steven Den Beste" information.
But this is where it ends. Most all the threads, most all the comments, most all the users were part of the research project. The guy we got to play the part of "Matt Haughey" was an out of work actor from Los Angeles. Hopefully, he'll get some callbacks soon and get back to what he does best (we were convinced when the magazine cover happened, the truth would come out).
The reactions of the actual respondents in the "Kaycee threads" displayed real pain and anger, and although my collegue that proposed the hoax research considers it a success, I feel it's best that we bring down the entire research project, if not for my or any other student in Dr. Lieke's lab, but for the strength of online community in general.
I'm sorry about all of this, really.
Andre Patel, MIT Media Lab (ABD)