What Is A Chatterbot?

What Is a Chatterbot?

Q: What is a chatterbot?

A: A robot that won’t shut up!

A chatterbot is a computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users through audio, video, or text. From the birth of electronic computers, computer scientists have conjectured about the possibility of communicating with machines as if they were humans.

For example, in Wargames (1983), “a young man finds a back door into a military central computer in which reality is confused with game-playing, possibly starting World War III.” (IMDB)


Common misconception: Computer software, like Siri or Alexa, can understand language and communicate.

This is false! Computers can manipulate binary-encoded symbols or values. Good responses that seem thoughtful are really just generated from automated reasoning routines (e.g., IF ASKED x, RESPOND WITH y ). Huge advances have been made by tailoring how the responses are generated. Initially, they were hand-coded; now, they are usually the result of sophisticated statistical modeling.

Recently, freakishly realistic telemarketing robots are denying they’re robots. Follow the link, read the article and listen to the sound recordings. Would you be convinced by the “real” telemarketer? Read the update to the story (as linked from within the article). How does this change things?


  1. Play with and analyze the strategies used by these three different chatterbots for a few minutes each:
    1. Eliza
    2. Cleverbot
    3. Program-O
  2. Take notes on the strengths/weaknesses of each.
  3. After you have tested and recorded your notes for each of the chatterbots, brainstorm a response to the question, "What are some common strategies that might ’break’ the system and expose the AI as not human?”

    Write a paragraph that summarizes the strategies you have considered.