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Joseph Weizenbaum's DOCTOR script for his ELIZA (2024 Code Critique)

Title: DOCTOR script for Joseph Weizenbaum's ELIZA
Language: ELIZA script
Year: 1964-1966
Author: Joseph Weizenbaum

Hi,

I'm interested to hear your thoughts about any aspect of any part of this script. Here are a couple of questions that interest me.

Are there any ethical questions raised when ELIZA/DOCTOR says "I AM SORRY TO HEAR YOU ARE DEPRESSED?" ELIZA is too simple to feel sorrow. Is Weizenbaum saying he is sorry through ELIZA/DOCTOR. Is it acceptable for software to lie to people, perhaps in the name of research, or as a simple and effective way to communicate with people using analogies? I believe similar questions are been raised in regard to various LLM chatbots.

Another question that interests me is how can I get into the mind of someone in 1965 talking to ELIZA/DOCTOR and, as Weizenbaum says, becoming deeply emotionally involved with it?

Here is a transcript of the DOCTOR script.

;
; Joseph Weizenbaum's DOCTOR script for ELIZA
;
; This is a verbatim transcription of the script on page 44 of the
; January 1966 edition of Communications of the ACM, with the following
; caveats:
;
; a) Whitespace has been added to help reveal the structure of the script.
; b) In the CACM paper six lines were printed twice adjacent to each
;    other (with exactly 34 lines between each duplicate), making the
;    structure nonsensical. These duplicates have been commented out of
;    this transcription.
; c) There were no comments in the script in the CACM paper.
;


(HOW DO YOU DO.  PLEASE TELL ME YOUR PROBLEM)

START

(SORRY
    ((0)
        (PLEASE DON'T APOLIGIZE)
        (APOLOGIES ARE NOT NECESSARY)
        (WHAT FEELINGS DO YOU HAVE WHEN YOU APOLOGIZE)
        (I'VE TOLD YOU THAT APOLOGIES ARE NOT REQUIRED)))

(DONT = DON'T)
(CANT = CAN'T)
(WONT = WON'T)

(REMEMBER 5
    ((0 YOU REMEMBER 0)
         (DO YOU OFTEN THINK OF 4)
         (DOES THINKING OF 4 BRING ANYTHING ELSE TO MIND)
         (WHAT ELSE DO YOU REMEMBER)
         (WHY DO YOU REMEMBER 4 JUST NOW)
         (WHAT IN THE PRESENT SITUATION REMINDS YOU OF 4)
         (WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ME AND 4))
    ((0 DO I REMEMBER 0)
         (DID YOU THINK I WOULD FORGET 5)
         (WHY DO YOU THINK I SHOULD RECALL 5 NOW)
         (WHAT ABOUT 5)
         (=WHAT)
         (YOU MENTIONED 5))
    ((0)
         (NEWKEY)))

(IF 3
    ((0 IF 0)
        (DO YOU THINK ITS LIKELY THAT 3)
        (DO YOU WISH THAT 3)
        (WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT 3)
        (REALLY, 2 3)))
; duplicate line removed: (WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT 3) (REALLY, 2 3)))

(DREAMT 4
    ((0 YOU DREAMT 0)
        (REALLY, 4)
        (HAVE YOU EVER FANTASIED 4 WHILE YOU WERE AWAKE)
        (HAVE YOU DREAMT 4 BEFORE)
        (=DREAM)
        (NEWKEY)))

(DREAMED = DREAMT 4
    (=DREAMT))

(DREAM 3
    ((0)
        (WHAT DOES THAT DREAM SUGGEST TO YOU)
        (DO YOU DREAM OFTEN)
        (WHAT PERSONS APPEAR IN YOUR DREAMS)
        (DON'T YOU BELIEVE THAT DREAM HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH YOUR PROBLEM)
        (NEWKEY)))

(DREAMS = DREAM 3
    (=DREAM))

(HOW
    (=WHAT))
(WHEN
    (=WHAT))
(ALIKE 10
    (=DIT))
(SAME 10
    (=DIT))
(CERTAINLY
    (=YES))

(FEEL DLIST(/BELIEF))
(THINK DLIST(/BELIEF))
(BELIEVE DLIST(/BELIEF))
(WISH DLIST(/BELIEF))

(MEMORY MY
    (0 YOUR 0 = LETS DISCUSS FURTHER WHY YOUR 3)
    (0 YOUR 0 = EARLIER YOU SAID YOUR 3)
    (0 YOUR 0 = BUT YOUR 3)
    (0 YOUR 0 = DOES THAT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT YOUR 3))

(NONE
    ((0)
        (I AM NOT SURE I UNDERSTAND YOU FULLY)
        (PLEASE GO ON)
        (WHAT DOES THAT SUGGEST TO YOU)
        (DO YOU FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT DISCUSSING SUCH THINGS)))

(PERHAPS
    ((0)
        (YOU DON'T SEEM QUITE CERTAIN)
        (WHY THE UNCERTAIN TONE)
        (CAN'T YOU BE MORE POSITIVE)
        (YOU AREN'T SURE)
        (DON'T YOU KNOW)))

(MAYBE
    (=PERHAPS))

(NAME 15
    ((0)
        (I AM NOT INTERESTED IN NAMES)
        (I'VE TOLD YOU BEFORE, I DON'T CARE ABOUT NAMES - PLEASE CONTINUE)))
; duplicate line removed: PLEASE CONTINUE)) )

(DEUTSCH
    (=XFREMD))
(FRANCAIS
    (=XFREMD))
(ITALIANO
    (=XFREMD))
(ESPANOL
    (=XFREMD))

(XFREMD
    ((0)
        (I AM SORRY, I SPEAK ONLY ENGLISH)))

(HELLO
    ((0)
        (HOW DO YOU DO.  PLEASE STATE YOUR PROBLEM)))

(COMPUTER 50
    ((0)
        (DO COMPUTERS WORRY YOU)
        (WHY DO YOU MENTION COMPUTERS)
        (WHAT DO YOU THINK MACHINES HAVE TO DO WITH YOUR PROBLEM)
        (DON'T YOU THINK COMPUTERS CAN HELP PEOPLE)
        (WHAT ABOUT MACHINES WORRIES YOU)
        (WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES)))

(MACHINE 50
    (=COMPUTER))
(MACHINES 50
    (=COMPUTER))
(COMPUTERS 50
    (=COMPUTER))

(AM = ARE
    ((0 ARE YOU 0)
        (DO YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE 4)
        (WOULD YOU WANT TO BE 4)
        (YOU WISH I WOULD TELL YOU YOU ARE 4)
        (WHAT WOULD IT MEAN IF YOU WERE 4)
        (=WHAT))
    ((0)
        (WHY DO YOU SAY 'AM')
        (I DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT)))

(ARE
    ((0 ARE I 0)
        (WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN WHETHER I AM 4 OR NOT)
        (WOULD YOU PREFER IF I WEREN'T 4)
        (PERHAPS I AM 4 IN YOUR FANTASIES)
        (DO YOU SOMETIMES THINK I AM 4)
        (=WHAT))
    ((0 ARE 0)
        (DID YOU THINK THEY MIGHT NOT BE 3)
        (WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF THEY WERE NOT 3)
        (WHAT IF THEY WERE NOT 3)
        (POSSIBLY THEY ARE 3)))

(YOUR = MY
    ((0 MY 0)
        (WHY ARE YOU CONCERNED OVER MY 3)
        (WHAT ABOUT YOUR OWN 3)
        (ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT SOMEONE ELSES 3)
        (REALLY, MY 3)))

(WAS 2
    ((0 WAS YOU 0)
        (WHAT IF YOU WERE 4)
        (DO YOU THINK YOU WERE 4)
        (WERE YOU 4)
        (WHAT WOULD IT MEAN IF YOU WERE 4)
        (WHAT DOES ' 4 ' SUGGEST TO YOU)
        (=WHAT))
    ((0 YOU WAS 0)
        (WERE YOU REALLY)
        (WHY DO YOU TELL ME YOU WERE 4 NOW)
; duplicate line removed: (WERE YOU REALLY) (WHY DO YOU TELL ME YOU WERE 4 NOW)
        (PERHAPS I ALREADY KNEW YOU WERE 4))
    ((0 WAS I 0)
        (WOULD YOU LIKE TO BELIEVE I WAS 4)
        (WHAT SUGGESTS THAT I WAS 4)
        (WHAT DO YOU THINK)
        (PERHAPS I WAS 4)
        (WHAT IF I HAD BEEN 4))
    ((0)
        (NEWKEY)))

(WERE = WAS
    (=WAS))
(ME = YOU)

(YOU'RE = I'M
    ((0 I'M 0)
        (PRE (I ARE 3) (=YOU))))

(I'M = YOU'RE
    ((0 YOU'RE 0)
        (PRE (YOU ARE 3) (=I))))

(MYSELF = YOURSELF)
(YOURSELF = MYSELF)

(MOTHER DLIST(/NOUN FAMILY))
(MOM = MOTHER DLIST(/ FAMILY))
(DAD = FATHER DLIST(/ FAMILY))
(FATHER DLIST(/NOUN FAMILY))
(SISTER DLIST(/FAMILY))
(BROTHER DLIST(/FAMILY))
(WIFE DLIST(/FAMILY))
(CHILDREN DLIST(/FAMILY))

(I = YOU
    ((0 YOU (* WANT NEED) 0)
        (WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU IF YOU GOT 4)
        (WHY DO YOU WANT 4)
        (SUPPOSE YOU GOT 4 SOON)
        (WHAT IF YOU NEVER GOT 4)
        (WHAT WOULD GETTING 4 MEAN TO YOU)
        (WHAT DOES WANTING 4 HAVE TO DO WITH THIS DISCUSSION))
    ((0 YOU ARE 0 (*SAD UNHAPPY DEPRESSED SICK ) 0)
        (I AM SORRY TO HEAR YOU ARE 5)
        (DO YOU THINK COMING HERE WILL HELP YOU NOT TO BE 5)
        (I'M SURE ITS NOT PLEASANT TO BE 5)
        (CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT MADE YOU 5))
    ((0 YOU ARE 0 (*HAPPY ELATED GLAD BETTER) 0)
        (HOW HAVE I HELPED YOU TO BE 5)
        (HAS YOUR TREATMENT MADE YOU 5)
        (WHAT MAKES YOU 5 JUST NOW)
        (CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY YOU ARE SUDDENLY 5))
    ((0 YOU WAS 0)
        (=WAS))
; duplicate line removed: ((0 YOU WAS 0) (=WAS))
    ((0 YOU (/BELIEF) YOU 0)
        (DO YOU REALLY THINK SO)
        (BUT YOU ARE NOT SURE YOU 5)
        (DO YOU REALLY DOUBT YOU 5))
    ((0 YOU 0 (/BELIEF) 0 I 0)
        (=YOU))
    ((0 YOU ARE 0)
        (IS IT BECAUSE YOU ARE 4 THAT YOU CAME TO ME)
        (HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN 4)
        (DO YOU BELIEVE IT NORMAL TO BE 4)
        (DO YOU ENJOY BEING 4))
    ((0 YOU (* CAN'T CANNOT) 0)
        (HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU CAN'T 4)
        (HAVE YOU TRIED)
        (PERHAPS YOU COULD 4 NOW)
        (DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE ABLE TO 4))
    ((0 YOU DON'T 0)
        (DON'T YOU REALLY 4)
        (WHY DON'T YOU 4)
        (DO YOU WISH TO BE ABLE TO 4)
        (DOES THAT TROUBLE YOU))
    ((0 YOU FEEL 0)
        (TELL ME MORE ABOUT SUCH FEELINGS)
        (DO YOU OFTEN FEEL 4)
        (DO YOU ENJOY FEELING 4)
        (OF WHAT DOES FEELING 4 REMIND YOU))
    ((0 YOU 0 I 0)
        (PERHAPS IN YOUR FANTASY WE 3 EACH OTHER)
        (DO YOU WISH TO 3 ME)
        (YOU SEEM TO NEED TO 3 ME)
        (DO YOU 3 ANYONE ELSE))
    ((0)
        (YOU SAY 1)
        (CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT)
        (DO YOU SAY 1 FOR SOME SPECIAL REASON)
        (THAT'S QUITE INTERESTING)))

(YOU = I
    ((0 I REMIND YOU OF 0)
        (=DIT))
    ((0 I ARE 0)
        (WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I AM 4)
        (DOES IT PLEASE YOU TO BELIEVE I AM 4)
        (DO YOU SOMETIMES WISH YOU WERE 4)
        (PERHAPS YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE 4))
    ((0 I 0 YOU)
        (WHY DO YOU THINK I 3 YOU)
        (YOU LIKE TO THINK I 3 YOU - DON'T YOU)
        (WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I 3 YOU)
        (REALLY, I 3 YOU)
        (DO YOU WISH TO BELIEVE I 3 YOU)
; duplicate line removed: (REALLY, I 3 YOU) (DO YOU WISH TO BELIEVE I 3 YOU)
        (SUPPOSE I DID 3 YOU - WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN)
        (DOES SOMEONE ELSE BELIEVE I 3 YOU))
    ((0 I 0)
        (WE WERE DISCUSSING YOU - NOT ME)
        (OH, I 3)
        (YOU'RE NOT REALLY TALKING ABOUT ME - ARE YOU)
        (WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS NOW)))

(YES
    ((0)
        (YOU SEEM QUITE POSITIVE)
        (YOU ARE SURE)
        (I SEE)
        (I UNDERSTAND)))

(NO
    ((0)
        (ARE YOU SAYING 'NO' JUST TO BE NEGATIVE)
        (YOU ARE BEING A BIT NEGATIVE)
        (WHY NOT)
        (WHY 'NO')))

(MY = YOUR 2
    ((0 YOUR 0 (/FAMILY) 0)
        (TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR FAMILY)
        (WHO ELSE IN YOUR FAMILY 5)
        (YOUR 4)
        (WHAT ELSE COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK OF YOUR 4))
    ((0 YOUR 0)
        (YOUR 3)
        (WHY DO YOU SAY YOUR 3)
        (DOES THAT SUGGEST ANYTHING ELSE WHICH BELONGS TO YOU)
        (IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU THAT 2 3)))

(CAN
    ((0 CAN I 0)
        (YOU BELIEVE I CAN 4 DON'T YOU)
        (=WHAT)
        (YOU WANT ME TO BE ABLE TO 4)
        (PERHAPS YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE TO 4 YOURSELF))
    ((0 CAN YOU 0)
        (WHETHER OR NOT YOU CAN 4 DEPENDS ON YOU MORE THAN ON ME)
        (DO YOU WANT TO BE ABLE TO 4)
        (PERHAPS YOU DON'T WANT TO 4)
        (=WHAT)))

(WHAT
    ((0)
        (WHY DO YOU ASK)
        (DOES THAT QUESTION INTEREST YOU)
        (WHAT IS IT YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW)
        (ARE SUCH QUESTIONS MUCH ON YOUR MIND)
        (WHAT ANSWER WOULD PLEASE YOU MOST)
        (WHAT DO YOU THINK)
        (WHAT COMES TO YOUR MIND WHEN YOU ASK THAT)
        (HAVE YOU ASKED SUCH QUESTIONS BEFORE)
        (HAVE YOU ASKED ANYONE ELSE)))

(BECAUSE
    ((0)
        (IS THAT THE REAL REASON)
        (DON'T ANY OTHER REASONS COME TO MIND)
        (DOES THAT REASON SEEM TO EXPLAIN ANYTHING ELSE)
        (WHAT OTHER REASONS MIGHT THERE BE)))

(WHY
    ((0 WHY DON'T I 0)
        (DO YOU BELIEVE I DON'T 5)
        (PERHAPS I WILL 5 IN GOOD TIME)
        (SHOULD YOU 5 YOURSELF)
        (YOU WANT ME TO 5)
        (=WHAT))
; duplicate line removed: (=WHAT))
    ((0 WHY CAN'T YOU 0)
        (DO YOU THINK YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO 5)
        (DO YOU WANT TO BE ABLE TO 5)
        (DO YOU BELIEVE THIS WILL HELP YOU TO 5)
        (HAVE YOU ANY IDEA WHY YOU CAN'T 5)
        (=WHAT))
    (=WHAT))

(EVERYONE 2
    ((0 (* EVERYONE EVERYBODY NOBODY NOONE) 0)
        (REALLY, 2)
        (SURELY NOT 2)
        (CAN YOU THINK OF ANYONE IN PARTICULAR)
        (WHO, FOR EXAMPLE)
        (YOU ARE THINKING OF A VERY SPECIAL PERSON)
        (WHO, MAY I ASK)
        (SOMEONE SPECIAL PERHAPS)
        (YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR PERSON IN MIND, DON'T YOU)
        (WHO DO YOU THINK YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT)))

(EVERYBODY 2
    (= EVERYONE))
(NOBODY 2
    (= EVERYONE))
(NOONE 2
    (= EVERYONE))

(ALWAYS 1
    ((0)
        (CAN YOU THINK OF A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE)
        (WHEN)
        (WHAT INCIDENT ARE YOU THINKING OF)
        (REALLY, ALWAYS)))

(LIKE 10
    ((0 (*AM IS ARE WAS) 0 LIKE 0)
        (=DIT))
    ((0)
        (NEWKEY)))

(DIT
    ((0)
        (IN WHAT WAY)
        (WHAT RESEMBLANCE DO YOU SEE)
        (WHAT DOES THAT SIMILARITY SUGGEST TO YOU)
        (WHAT OTHER CONNECTIONS DO YOU SEE)
        (WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT RESEMBLANCE MEANS)
        (WHAT IS THE CONNECTION, DO YOU SUPPOSE)
        (COULD THERE REALLY BE SOME CONNECTION)
        (HOW)))

()

; --- End of ELIZA script ---

Comments

  • I absolutely love the ELIZA/DOCTOR script as an example for exploring human-AI interaction. I taught it in my human-computer interaction class this year alongside a reading from Hamid Ekbia's book "Artificial Dreams." Ekbia understands the ELIZA effect as an example of a larger class of "attribution fallacies" where AI developers and users misread metaphorical explanations of AI functionality as literal. He argues that these metaphors are wishful thinking on the part of the AI developers, and exploit our willingness to assume that a program has an internal model of the world that resembles ours.

    From this perspective, the software is not lying; it does not have the capacity to do so. And Wizenbaum is not lying when the program outputs "I'm sorry to hear you are depressed" any more than Shakespeare is lying when he has Romeo say "it is the East and Juliet is the sun." Much has been written about the theatrical origins of the ELIZA character (inspired by Eliza in Shaw's Pygmalion), and there are strong parallels to theater in the ELIZA effect.

    While employing human-like theatrics in AI programs makes them easier for us to understand and interact with, these sorts of metaphors can still be exploitative and harmful. We can see the start of this with chatGPT and AI "personal companion" products that pretend to be thinking, feeling artificial agents but mostly exist to collect more interaction data for training future chatbots. Ultimately, even if it is not lying, it uses a deceptive metaphor and exploits our empathy to encourage our interaction. In some ways, it resembles the way that brand accounts behave like humans on social media, which no one would characterize as a lie, even though it similarly exploits our empathy.

  • Well, let's look at the mechanics of ELIZA before we look at the rest. ELIZA consists of three parts:

    • ELIZA contains the control logic which interfaces between the user and the scripts,
    • The scripts are 'instructions' that inform the control logic how to treat input and generate output.
    • SLIP is an Application Programming Interface (API) which facilitates the control logic.

    ELIZA is executable, SLIP is not, and the scripts are data to ELIZA, and represent a persona.

    DOCTOR, with a script representing a Rogerian Psychiatrist persona shows the elements of how to interpret the input and generate the output. The script contains a limited number of English language words that it is interested in, and sentential rules to recognize phrases containing these words, and then, rules based on the detected sentential strjucture to generate an output.

    We are talking in 2024 about a program published in 1966 which contains about 415 lines of executable code with a script with about 60 recognized words. This program provides the user with an apparent interface with a person, and although the person knows it is a program without sense nor sensibility, the person interacts with it as one person to another. The ELIZA effect.

    What a remarkable achievement.

    The persona described by the script has all the encumbrances and deficiencies of the society it was created in. If there are any biases, the script represents those biases. If there are societal issues relevant to the times, that is codified by the scripts, in this case DOCTOR.

    Some questions remain. Why were only 60+ words used? Why not 100, or 200? Do the words chosen represent some sort of bias, and does the generated output represent the same bias? Do the sentential forms represent some form of expression of that bias? Or are these things a product less of the times and more of expediency.

  • edited February 13

    Hi @samgoree, thank you for your thought-provoking reply. I do not intend anything I say below to be any kind of criticism of what you said. This is just what came to mind.

    The line of Shakespeare is clearly metaphor. For what is "I am sorry to hear you are depressed" a metaphor? Yes, ELIZA is too simple to feel sorrow or to knowingly tell a lie. Nevertheless, the ELIZA program produced text for a person to read and the text was not true. Surely, Weizenbaum is using all the arts at his disposal to trick people into believing something that isn't true: that they are talking to an entity that - to some extent - understands them, when he knows that it does not. For what purpose? Perhaps it was simple intellectual curiosity? Science? Entertainment? Military research? (Weizenbaum's work on ELIZA was funded by Project MAC.)

    "Granny Weatherwax was firmly against fiction. Life was hard enough without lies floating around and changing the way people thought. And because the theater was fiction made flesh, she hated the theater most of all." - Pratchett

    When people go to a theater or read fiction I assume they know what they are seeing is not literally true. But the work may convey a more abstract truth about the world, while at the same time making us laugh or cry. Does interacting with ELIZA/DOCTOR tell us something about the world, or about ourselves? If so, I wonder what that might be.

    I believe it's been shown that some LLMs do construct internal models of the world, but perhaps the models are very different to ours. I sometimes interact with people who appear to have internal models of the world that I am pretty sure do not resemble mine! People say they don't trust LLMs because they bullshit. So it's a good job people never bullshit.

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