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The puppetpresident at WRT: Writer Response Theory



The puppetpresident


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The puppetpresident” by Antoine Schmitt is a chatbot which purports to be a “HIGHLY PROTECTED PRIVATE CRYPTED CONVERSATION” with the puppetpresident itself.

WHY ARE YOU PRESIDENT?

> Oil programmed me for it

(Note the unusual use of the command prompt “>” to indicate the program response, not what is typed). The puppetpresident is written in AIML, via Pandorabots, and the about-page describes it as assemblage or pastiche of answer sets:

“Many layers of personality thus coexist and interact inside the puppetpresident, making it the one and only puppetpresident, both real puppet and real president.”

A few reactions. The green-screen command-line interface to a national security system is a staple of older films, and has an almost timeless quality that works well in the presentation. However, a timeless “president” identity is quite a strange idea. Should we talk to this puppetpresident about terrorists? About sex scandals? About contras? About Vietnam? Presumably the puppetpresident is to be modeled on the 2000-2008 Bush, although even there you quickly realize that this doesn’t age well. Much our concept of the President is a moving target as the issues facing the nation change. Consider the last few months:
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WHAT IS THE SUPREME COURT?

> That's not something I get asked all the time.

This is not to say that the puppetpresident is a bad idea, just that it missteps in setting up the expectation that it will accomplish something very hard (simulate a humorous conversation about an evolving list of domestic and foreign political issues). But when we attempt to engage on these expected topics (“WHAT IS THE WAR ON TERROR?” “I have never been asked that before”), we discover that the humor is much more general to the situation - the chatbot is incoherent and seldom on topic, and it was programmed to lead. But the normal offbeat AIML responses represent a missed opportunity. The United States has had several awkward and inarticulate Presidents, of which Bush is the most recent example and famous example. Politicians are also more generally known for undermining certain rules of conversation, such as listening and directly responding to questions. A chatbot Bush might imitate these qualities by deflecting unknown topics and bad pattern matches into grammatical tangles and farcical attempts to “stay on message,” and this kind of programming would highlight the parallels between what is lacking in chatbot interaction and what is lacking in our current political discourse. This is something that the puppetpresident does to a limited extent on matches (“Terrorists are the ennemi”) - I’m just suggesting that it could be a general strategy to shape conversation on failures (e.g. “We cannot let [UNKNOWN X] detract us from our present course” etc.)

Regardless, the puppetpresident is worth checking out. If playing with it causes us to ruminate on how unsatisfying the interaction was, this failure of the process is in part a success of the artwork.

via Drunken Boat #7



1 Response to “The puppetpresident”

  1. 1 Christy Dena

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    There is also Bush Bot 0.4. This bot takes aim at presidential debates and lets you converse/argue with the rhetoric. It is quite nicely done.

    As you say, Puppet President sets up a context and then doesn’t follow through. It is a perfect opportunity for the botmaster to ONLY have to deal with certain topics (be they a large amount) rather than dealing with conversation in general. This is the first rule of botmaster design (in my mind): set-up a context, a constraint that applies down-ward pressure onto the input. Hopefully Schmitt makes some changes. I like the command-line interface.

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