For a time, I was really interested in an online virtual chat tool named A.L.I.C.E. She was programmed to respond to any input, sometimes very convincingly.

The more I played with A.L.I.C.E., The more I began to think I could build one even better. I found a free, and quite old program called QBasic that ran on good ol' DOS. I ultimately wanted to make my program in Visual Basic and distribute it, but it was hard to leave the charm of the zen-like command line interface and the lightweight nature of its installation.

The first iteration of my program, Adeus, was just a long list of IF...THEN GOTO [line #] conditionals. I realized quickly it was not scalable enough to handle that seemingly infinite variety of ways to say any one thing. For example, "hi, howdy, hey, hello, yo, how's it goin..." etc. all basically meant "hello." If/then statements alone just weren't going to cut it.

I realized all the program needed to know was information that was much more general than the statement itself. For example, all those versions of "hello" only needed to get through to Adeus to tell him he was being greeted.

Thus, my new idea was to create a filter that would standardize any incoming statement to a new string that could then be processed by IF/THEN statements.

The result was a child-like statement invisible to the user being processed by Adeus. For example, "Yo dawg, how's it hangin..! ya good?!" might be standardized into "hello. how are you?"


Adeus never came close to passing a Turing Test, but it inspired me to think more deeply about AI. One unpursued idea was to reinvent the machine itself. My reasoning was that any computer or electronic device that exists today is scaled up from a fundamental mechanical unit--the diode. This is why the baseline logic of a computer is binary. Yet the way an animal brain works is more slippery than hard on/off states. The passage of data is funnelled through chemical gateways and influential rather than deterministic circuits.

In summary, my idea was not to reinvent the artificially intelligent computer program, but to create a machine built with a new mechanical unit to run such a program. All along we've been assuming artificial intelligence necessitates a computer when really it necessitates a machine.

To build an AI bot on a computer is like building a log cabin out of bricks.

What would an influential diode look like? I haven't solved that one yet.