"Electrocute, monument for the A.I."
>>> fall 2005.
The project begun about three years ago as an ICQ bot that would reply anyone on its contact list with "synthetic", artificially generated answers. The core of the system consisted of an Open Source Artificial Intelligence engine called "MegaHal" and simple ICQ interface module. The interesting thing about that mechanism is that the bot is not just randomly answering with any "hardcoded" sentence that comes to its "mind" but it is actually learning from each conversation. "Markov's" language learning model used in Megahal constructs its own dictionary and the way words are used is memorized as well. Since this artificial brain initially comes empty, - the users have the full power to teach it in any possible way, create an intelligence related only to its own context, based on the evidence it encounters while conversing with the user.
My idea to expose this naive, simple-minded "brain" to the Internet and collect in this way an average internet personality was probably a little cruel, thousands and thousands of people talked to the "kid" without any moderation, however the result that I got at the end was amazing. After "living" online for three years, along with some pseudo-philosophical ideas about our daily life, synthetic brain also sucked in all the dirtiest language that you could possibly find in chatting networks. An average internet person appeared to be a rather perverted, sexually disoriented and depressed individual. At least that's the way the machine, being kind of a "new-born" alien in our human society, could perceive our on-line culture and state of mind.
I put "monument" in the name with a believe (or probably a secret hope) that a machine can never compete with a person in terms such as humanity, humor and simplicity. Made in such a way that visitors can directly interact with it (type and get response, read constantly floating stream of text) the object is quite a massive construction, hanging with all its mass just a little over the viewer.
DIY (do-it-yourself) look of it meant to put you into some kind of "underground hacker" place. 10 video monitors displaying lots of textual information are built in one body of welded metal. User is left with a keyboard where s/he can type-in and read the response on the big screen in the middle of the construction.