Learn from Eliza

Ever play with the old computer game ELIZA? It was a program that was supposed to parody Rogerian therapy, the kind of therapy where you try not to be the elite authority figure handing down a magical judgment and cure from on high, but you use questions and reflect what the therapant says back to them, in the hopes that they'll hear themselves better and figure it out from their own words. You type in words or statements and ELIZA replies with little questions and riffs on something you said. It has a limited data set of words, but if you use a family relation, it might ask about your family. If you mention an emotion within its data set, it asks or talks about other emotions.

It also works like a primitive Turing test, making you wonder if there's really a human on some other terminal responding to your questions in real time, or if this is just a computer. It could almost pass for human for a few minutes. Sometimes it would get the syntax wrong when it used your own phases turned around in its responses, like "Tell me more about your the tomb."

If it recognized none of the words that you entered, it might pick one word and say, "I don't know what you mean by [your word]" or "Tell me more about [your word]." And another pre-programmed phrase that came up randomly, or maybe came up when it couldn't recognize any of your words, was "How does that make you feel?" People love talking about themselves and their feelings, even when you don't want them to. Female people doubly so.

My lovely female person in the other room, Melinda, sometimes stays up 20 or 24 or 36 hours, reading emails, watching YouTube, making videos of her own, reading and posting on newsgroups or email groups. Internet addiction. Like any variety of addict, she sometimes gets so wrapped up in her activity that she neglects personal hygeine and sleep and other commitments, lets it intrude on her relationship with other people. ;) hi.

When I pull her face out of the monitor like that little girl getting sucked into the tube in Poltergeist one or two or did she survive past two? Anyway, when I get her loose from the computer and headed in the direction of dreamland, she usually performs her ablution, then sits on the edge of the bed smoking a cigarette while hollering personal and philosophical questions to me, often leading questions as if she were the prosecutor putting herself on trial for some perceived sin.

[At least she never smokes in bed while lying down. She's strict about that.]

I usually scream at her for a few minutes, because she's not really holding a conversation, just trying to get me to say she's been horrible or done something wrong, or she has misunderstood some major aspect of her life and needs to rethink it, or just rhetorical questions about how bad she is. It's also maddening because the half-assed conversation is not allowing her to get to sleep yet, and she's just going to get more freaked and stir up more self-loathing as she stays up later.

She lays down with the light on overhead, still asking questions and trying to get me to agree how bad or wrong she is. If you want a guide who can soothingly talk you down from a head-trip, find some other saint. I already earned my wings and harp. I'm not going to waste my time on pointless, depressing discussion, especially when it prevents the most effective solution, which is getting some sleep.

I assume not everyone has this particular problem, but perhaps you will find this lesson from ELIZA as helpful as I have. When your female problem or chatty buddy is asking you pointless shit, engaging in a useless or rhetorical conversation, or revisiting shit you've already talked about over and over and you're sick of hearing it and anyway you're trying to accomplish something else, and you've filled your fucking quota of earnest listening for the day or week or epoch, go ahead and let the blather wash over you. Keep reading Metafilter and and Insurgent American. There's no need to put thought into the conversation. If you're doing this in the kind of situations I'm talking about, you've already determined that there is no good purpose to the conversation, and therefore no good purpose in your putting any effort into it. Use ELIZA Jujitsu. Reflect something she just said back at her, and turn it into a question.

I hear you saying you're concerned about the mailman thinking you don't buy enough stamps from him. How does that make you feel?

Repeat as necessary.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home