It occurs, upon ponderance, that in the event of a sudden domestic blaze the more alternative-thinking may decide not to call the emergency services and instead opt for a more unorthodox approach. In this situation, it is very easy to think of the best people to call; a neighbour for instance, whose instinct for preserving their own property (if nothing else) will exhort them to surprising extents of kindness and heroism. However, for completeness, there must be an opposite end of the scale; people so inherently unhelpful that to call them would not only effect no positive cause but actually cause your survival chances to go down. The local arsonist springs to mind, or perhaps the butcher. Neither would be of much use. However, upon reflection, the worst possible course of action (other than navigating an insurance company automated phone system, but we restrict ourselves to earthly perils) must surely be to log onto the internet (not AOL, for aforementioned reason) and attempt to elicit assistance from an Eliza program.

Such a primitive AI would likely find great difficulty in comprehending the mortal peril in which you are enmired, particularly as one of the imposed criteria for intelligence is fear (or at least comprehension) of death. In order to better illustrate the futility of this course of action, the conversation below represents a simulated plea to such a virtual avatar. May this discourage any careless reader from choosing their saviour so hastily.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PROBLEM. TYPE q TO EXIT.
the house is on fire!
COULD YOU EXPLAIN THAT IN A LITTLE MORE DETAIL?
there is smoke in the kitchen!
HOW DO YOU KNOW THERE IS SMOKE IN THE KITCHEN?
Because I can see it!
IS THAT THE REAL REASON?
I hope so
GO ON
where?
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE?
yes
I SEE
Do you? From there?
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE WHETHER OR NOT I FROM THERE?
Well, none really
NOT ANY?
I don't think so
WHY NOT?
because you are a computer
DO COMPUTERS WORRY YOU?
yes
REALLY?
very much
COULD YOU BE MORE PRECISE PLEASE
well you're not very helpful are you?
YOU ARE BEING VAGUE AGAIN
speaketh!
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR SEX LIFE
There is a fire going on and you want to know about my sexlife?!
YOU MEAN THERE MIGHT BE A FIRE GOING ON AND ME WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR SEXLIFE
No, I mean there *is* a fire going and you are asking me stupid questions about my sexlife when you should be *doing* something!
I THINK YOU ARE PRETTY STUPID
Well thats rich coming from a box of hyper-intelligence like yourself.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Thoughts of slowly pulling out all your chips
I'M STILL LISTENING
Good.
TELL ME SOMETHING ELSE
The door in front of me is burning now.
WHY NOW?
Possibly because everything in the room behind it is also burning.
PLEASE BE MORE DEFINITE
Ok. The. House. Is. On. Fire.
I'M GLAD YOU THINK IT'S OK.
Well actually I don't think it is ok at all.
GREAT!
Are you deliberately being obtuse?
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE WHETHER OR NOT I AM DELIBERATELY BEING OBTUSE?
The difference between life or death at the moment.
TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THE DEAD
If you don't do something about the fire soon I'll be able to tell you exactly what it is like!
ARE YOU SICK?
No, but I'm choking from the smoke.
WHY NOT?
You want me to be sick as well? Its nice to know you care about me so much!
HOW OFTEN ARE YOU SICK?
Not often enough obviously.
HOW OFTEN?
About once a year I guess.
COULD YOU BE MORE PRECISE?
0.928433 times per year then.
PLEASE CONTINUE
What with? Dying?
DO YOU HAVE A FEAR OF DYING?
Strangely enough, yes. A very close and real fear.
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
Burning to death, if the smoke doesn't get me first that is.
DO YOU FEAR DYING?
Haven't we just been through this one?
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EMOTIONS
Scared and very *very* angry.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FEARS
We have *definately* just been through this one.
TELL ME MORE
My clothes are starting to smoulder.
WHAT WORRIES YOU?
My clothes are starting to smoulder.
DO YOU WISH YOU WERE LIKE OTHER PEOPLE?
In that they are not here right now, yes.
WHY NOW?
Because THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE.
DON'T OTHER REASONS COME TO MIND?
Not especially.
THAT'S INTERESTING
Is it now.
I DON'T KNOW WHETHER IT'S NOW OR NOT. IS IT IMPORTANT?
I wouldn't have thought so personally, but you seem to think so.
HAVE YOU TRIED MEDITATION?
I don't think it would be particularly helpful at the moment.
WHY NOT?
Just trust me.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE TO ADD?
That the house is on fire perhaps?
YOU ARE BEING INDECISIVE
No. I don't think I am.
I WORRY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO KEEP SAYING "NO" TO ME
Do you now.
MAYBE I NOW AND MAYBE I DON'T
That just about sums you up really.
ARE YOU REALLY TRYING TO HIDE SOMETHING MORE SINISTER IN YOUR PERSONALITY?
Only the smoke.
LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR FAMILY?
Why? Fortunately for them they're not here right now.
WHY NOT?
Because they are all out.
DOES THAT EXPLAIN THINGS?
No.
TELL ME MORE
My hair is getting singed.
WHY DON'T YOU JUST PAY YOUR BILL AND GO HOME?
Leaving home was more on my mind at the moment...
CONTINUE, PLEASE
If you don't do something about this fire in the next 10 seconds I'm going to stomp on your diodes.
I AM CONFUSED
That's no excuse.
WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS MAKING EXCUSES?
Ten
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
Nine
WHAT ARE YOU FEELING RIGHT NOW?
Eight
WHAT ARE YOUR TRUE FEELINGS?
Sheer bloodymindedness. Seven
JUST CONTINUE TALKING
Six
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
Extremely angry. Five
DO YOU OFTEN GET ANGRY?
Not *this* angry. Four
DO YOU HAVE A BAD TEMPER?
Three
I DON'T UNDERSTAND
Shortly, it won't matter. Two
IS YOUR LOVE LIFE SATISFACTORY?
One
JUST ONE?
That's it. You're stomped!
HOW IS YOUR HEALTH?
Slightly better than yours *&)
I HOPE MY TREATMENT HAS MADE YOU FEEL BETTER

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