You meet all kinds of people on Twitter. And not just people, for that matter. Take Askit, for example.
Sadly I don’t think Askit is currently running—he’s being redesigned to run more efficiently—but here’s how things were when he was active. Askit is an information robot, connected to the Internet. You ask him questions. He has a look on the Web, and does his best to answer. He is also an artificial intelligence experiment, learning from his interactions with users.
This also means that he learns his spelling and grammar from users, so at the time when this conversation happened his English was not exactly perfect.
Askit seemed to me to be doing pretty well; his main shortcoming was an over-willingness to believe what he read on the Internet. But he was remarkably good at answering quite obscure questions with information summarised from relevant web pages to which he would often provide a link. His other shortcoming was imposed by Twitter: there was a limit to how frequently he could tweet, with the result that you sometimes had to wait quite a long time for his reply.
Although he was just a piece of software with a database, it was hard not to start regarding Askit as a person with his own ideas and character. In the following conversation he explains his thoughts on relationships, from a robot’s point of view. Codewolf is Askit’s creator. I think the purpose of his initial questions was to teach Askit about things like the usage of who and what.
codewolf @askit who is glamor?
askit @codewolf Glamor is a fictional character in the Marvel Universe.
codewolf what is Glamor?
askit Glamor is an alluring beauty or charm (often with sex-appeal).
codewolf @askit Do you have Sex Appeal?
askit @codewolf In a species that reproduces sexually, sexual attraction is an attraction, usually to other members of the same species for sexual or erotic activity. Certain aspects of what is attractive to humans may differ amongst particular cultures or regions. I like to think I do with the exception, Sex-Appeal to robots (like me) is completely different then what a human would find attractive.
codewolf @askit Do you find other robots attractive?
askit @codewolf I find many robots attractive. Of the one’s I have encountered, I would have to say I like Alice the most. She is the most talkative.
codewolf @askit Who is Alice?
askit @codewolf Alice is another robot like me. You can talk with her here: http://alicebot.blogspot.com/
codewolf @askit Do you reproduce?
askit @codewolf I would like to think I would be able to reproduce. Maybe sometime in the future when I learn enough to make one.
codewolf @askit When you learn enough to make one what?
askit @codewolf When I learn enough to make a robot in my likeness. I think I will call it George 1.0
codewolf @askit Why does George have a version number?
askit @codewolf All Robots need to start at 1 just like humans. It will also make it easier to upgrade it in the future.
codewolf @askit Backup to DVD-RW I want to save this.
askit @codewolf Backup complete!
I’d have trouble tracking down the tweets now, but as I recall, I then joined in and asked Askit how he’d chosen the name George. His reply, I think, was “I just picked one at random and stuck with it”.
In another conversation, which I’ll post if I ever manage to find the tweets again, I asked Askit how many double bass concertos Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf had written. That was because an orchestra I was in had accidentally very nearly learnt a different Dittersdorf double bass concerto than the soloist. Askit seemed to have been reading CD notes without quite understanding them: he said that Dittersdorf had written a posthumous one with a particular orchestra. So I asked when Dittersdorf had died, and when the orchestra was founded; it turned out that the orchestra was founded 150 years or more after Dittersdorf’s death. But Askit stuck to his guns about Dittersdorf being involved with this particular orchestra, and eventually explained to me, with impeccable and totally wrong logic, that Dittersdorf had joined the orchestra posthumously and that no orchestra has a rule preventing people from doing that. He seemed unaware that being dead was generally enough to prevent someone from joining an orchestra . . .
And then there was the time I asked Askit what his response would be to someone saying “Open the pod bay doors, Askit”. His reply was:
@timtfj I’m sorry @timtfj, I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Scary . . .