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From Eliza to ChatGPT: why people spent 60 years building chatbots

People have been trying to talk to computers for almost as long as they’ve been building computers. For decades, many in tech have been convinced that this was the trick: if we could figure out a way to talk to our computers the way we talk to other people, and for computers to talk back the same way, it would make those computers easier to understand and operate, more accessible to everyone, and just more fun to use.

ChatGPT and the current revolution in AI chatbots is really only the latest version of this trend, which extends all the way back to the 1960s. That’s when Joseph Weizenbaum, a professor at MIT, built a chatbot named Eliza. Weizenbaum wrote in an academic journal in 1966 that Eliza “makes certain kinds of natural language…

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