Is Enguage Just a Chatbot?

The simple answer is no. But why not?

The raison d’etre of a chatbot is to keep a person talking for a certain length of time, convinced that it is a human. Alan Turing’s original idea[1] talked of creating an imaginary world, but went on to describe how this could be supported by tricks to give hints about the origin of the correspondent. Joseph Weizenbaum’s original chatbot, ELIZA[2], did a stunning job by doing a keyword search: if the user typed “mother”, ELIZA would select one from several replies, such as “Why do you mention your mother?” I don’t have the source to his original version, but I’m reasonably familiar with David Ahl’s version[3].

Enguage doesn’t do a keyword search. It must match an entire utterance for it to be understood; and, it is quite happy to tell you it doesn’t understand! It could be used to create a chatbot, try:

On “PHRASE-BEFORE mother PHRASE-AFTER”, reply “why do you mention your mother”.

But it is more than this. Enguage was written as a reaction to the lack of action in ELIZA: it serves as an interface to a machine. You can run programs, and interact with databases from Enguage; so, is it just a competitor to Alexa, or Watson?

Enguage is more than this, too. Enguage only understands 12, or so, utterances; but these support the construction of interpretant—the hypothetical cognitive mechanism giving the ability to interpret. This gives a machine the ability to form understanding, which can be done by voice.. So, while it would be difficult to program Alexa using Alexa (because the Alexa Skills Kit is based in JavaScript on a website), Enguage is open to users saying what they mean.

[1] Turing, A. M., On Computing Machinery and Intelligence, Mind, 236 (Oct., 1950)

[2] Weizenbaum, J., ELIZA – A Computer Program for the Study of Natural Language Communication between Man and Machine, CACM, 1966

[3] Ahl, D. H., More Basic Computer Games, ISBN: 9780894801372