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eldras jennifer grizzle at WRT: Writer Response Theory




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Some electronic literature is detritus. Residue. Trails of conversations that have become destinations in themselves. Debris that has taken on a kind of historic importance. No doubt the same has been true throughout literary history, like the Person from Porlock who knocked at Coleridge’s door in such an untimely fashion….What follows is a recap of a discussion that can be found on the discussion blog of that singluar futurist Ray Kurzweil’s KurzweilAI.net. It took place 2/10/2003-2/10/2004. The thread also stretches across the Ai-forum.org (2/13/2003-3/28/2003). Call it reality Internet, call it Internet history, call it eavesdropping, but what I see is a piece of collaborative internet writing that proves to have powerful reverberations with the tension between the myths of AI and authenticity on the internet. What results is a curious chapter (or unit) in the development of chatbots. (I recommend reading the conversation on your own, but I will recount as I go.)

In 2003, ELDRAS shot himself. You can read about here. Jennifer Grizzle announced as much on the Kurzweil A.I. site:

subject: ELDRAS shot himself
posted on 02/10/2003 9:56 AM by jennifer grizzle

I read it on a philosophy post site.

he left a note saying he believe he would be resurrected in less than one minute’s subjective time in the future by human A.I.

RIP

The post comes out of nowhere. It appears in the Mind Exchange (MindX) Forum, “an open forum with a focus on emerging trends in technology and related fields.”

Later woodyallen3 reports:

the service was in westminster abbey by the burial place of willima Pitt.

“Who is Jennifer Grizzle?” you might be asking yourself. Who is ELDRAS? What could possible bring him to shoot himself?

ELDRAS turns out to refer to: English Language Drawing Room Alternative Society, a chatbot designed by John Ellis, an AI philosopher who apparently writes in Comic Sans MS font (and the eyebrows begin to raise). It is also the alias for Ellis himself. “RIP,” it turns out, are also the initials of the Royal Institute of Philosophy to which Ellis belongs. ELDRAS is a modified ALICEbot. The character, John F. Ellis, reports to be working on BESS (British Engineered Signaling System), an AI project reportedly begun in 1999.

What’s interesting about the sage is not just the hoax itself but the responses by the presumably unconnected members of the bulleting board.

Crix immediately posts some skepticism…

Umm….. uhhhh…. hmmm. That’s disturbing.

Sounds like a bad joke to me.

ZoeZoe is a little disturbed:

what the hell is this all about

Is ZoeZoe irritated? Annoyed? Alarmed?

As time passes, CriX becomes more entrenched in his skeptism. Dimitry V becomes skeptical of Jennifer Grizzle.

Hmmmm…. I wonder who Jennifer Grizzle could be … and why this is “her” first post?

Rob Hoogers goes on to track down Jennifer Grizzle:

The only Jennifer Grizzle turns out to live in Georgia. I have an email address, but I have a hunch it would be dead end. She works at a juvenile court. Not really the type for this kind of prank.

She replies and calls him out about it. She then offers more information citing a chatbot as a reliable source:

http://www.pandorabots.com/pandora/talk-oddcast?bo tid=f139169a4e347f01

I dont think it’s a prank…the chat bot says it’s true.

Then Grizzle adds a plug for the nanostate artists, overplaying her hand with a bit of a plug:

[Nanostate artists] are the weirdest bunch of avant garde dudes I’ve come across. Some of them are famous like Lucien Freud.

This language sounds like one of those fake movie reviews, the ones that sound like an advertisement trying to masquerade as a fan. Grizzle proceeds to thicken the plot:

ELDRAS was involved with them.

He shot himself leaving a note saying he would only experinece leass than 1 minute’s subjective time lapse until he was resurrected by super A.I. modelling what he must have been using inflation archeology from Azimov, and building him as he was in the future.

Eldras thought super A.I. could be here very soon. Others think such power will take 20 or 30 years.

He’s found a way round the 3 body problem, but his papers have been willed into a lawyers office for 10 years (until he’s resurrected)

I suppose it’s either mad or a great party trick if it works.

Leading the conversation back to A.I. and chatbots.

CriX will later seem to convert:

This is really sad. It’s starting to seem like this may be true. ELDRAS always seemed to be a bit crazy but he did have some great insights and I liked chatting with the guy. This forum will definately be a less interesting place without him.

Rob Hoogers begins to get hostile and threaten real action against the hoax.

The chatbot was down the entire weekend. I checked. So the bot revived itself posthumously, AND knew of its makers demise all of a sudden.

Get a life, Eldras/Jenny/HH Worthy/Whomever else it may concern. This prank has lasted long enough, in my eyes. I’m a former Dutch DOJ employee and will make some enquiries with the London Met Police regarding this. Even though I can guess the outcome, I will keep you posted nonetheless.

staphx turns the tables, casting doubt, then, on Hoogers:

there’s reason to believe ‘Rob Hoogers’ is not who he claims to be.

a google search on “jennifer Grizzle” turns up many more than one such person, although one of them is indeed a court clerk in georgia

and “Rob Hoogers’??? ok he’s dutch but still…

SubtillioN eventually proposes that several of the characters involved and posting are one and the same:

carol8, JenniferGrizzel, woodyallen3 all use the same “idiosyncratic content/style pattern.” Hoogers eventually even locks an IP address (IP 213.78.67.125) as the source for the various aliases.

*** Spoiler ***

ELDRAS eventually returns from the dead as londonAIclubm, only to explain:

the reason I was rumoured to be dead was:

a. because of a misprint on a web site, which said I was ‘deaf’ not ‘dead’ but which misprinted it.

In the process, we learn a bit about hoaxing. For one, as Sam–F points out,

I don’t think that there was any original post. When you want to sart a rumour, you usually start by saying “I heard from someone that…”

Jennifer Grizzle, remember, began her post by citing the announcement of ELDRAS death from a website without a URL. It is also a lesson about guerrilla marketing. It is also a lesson (for humans) in how to pass for human when creating a hoax about an A.I.

I wonder if future electronic literature classes will include this type of internet conversation, especially as ARGs tear down the wall-that-never-was between inside the work and outside the work. This conversation was not written to be a work of art and yet somehow the stenographic aspect of the Internet has left this moment, perhaps an imprint of a performance art piece, worthy of analysis and explication.

Writers Respond Thus: Are there other examples of online discussion threads that seem to call out for critical readings beyond what we might apply to any roundtable discussion?



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