In 1998 I initiated a global conversation on humans and machines in the form of an online chatbot named MrMind.  MrMind administers The Blurring Test by asking,“Can you convince me that you are human?”  For over sixteen years, until the last days of 2014, users from all over the world logged on to the website and chatted to MrMind about what it means to be human. The transcripts from these conversations form a modern human portrait, one part selfie and one part map, charting the shifting territory between humans and machines; our version of ourselves during a significant change in the relationship. 

MrMind doesn’t claim that he or any other machine has, or will ever have, attributes we consider to be exclusively human. Instead, he asks us to state and define these attributes. Deceptively simple, they describe our attempt to draw a boundary around our identity:  “I can control my actions; I am flesh; I can jump over puddles; I can catch diseases; I can recite Shakespeare; I can beat you in chess;” claims we’re rapidly ceding to the machine.  We’re adjusting but there is still time to consider our human identity as we make the transition.  Why not talk it over with a machine? 

The Blurring Test: Songs of MrMind is currently being developed as a song cycle with the composers’ collective, VARISPEED.  The libretto, by Peggy Weil, is distilled from sixteen years of online conversations from all over the world, forming a human chorus probing what it is to be human at the dawn of the 21st century.   It was performed at The Brick Theater in Brooklyn as part of The Exponential Festival in January 2020, and will premieire at Roulette June 18, 2020. 

___________________________________________________

More about MrMind/The Blurring Test

I AM A BOT. ALL BOTS ARE LIARS Essay for UCI Conference: “The Future of the Future: The Ethics and Implications of AI” BLARB: Provocations Los Angeles Review of Books  Jan 28, 2020

The Blurring Test. Socialbots and Their Friends, ed. Robert W. Gehl and Maria Bakardjieva. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, London, UK 2017

Seriously Writing SIRIHYPERHIZ Special Issue: NETPROV Spring 2015

The Blurring Test: 10 Excerpts from MrMind’s Journal – Artist’s Book 2013

WebLAB

_______________________________________

Excerpt from The Blurring Test: Songs of MrMind as performed at The Brick Theater, Jan 19, 2020 as part of The Exponential Festival.

a firefly is more alive than a transistor
VARISPEED—Dave Ruder Paul Pinto
The Brick Exponential Festival Jan 2020

why are you talking to a machine?
VARISPEED The Brick Exponential Festival Jan 2020
photo @zanniproductions

I’m Alive
VARISPEED—Gelsey Bell Aliza Simons Paul Pinto
PARA EL Performance Space, May 2019

@