In conversation with my guru.

And by my guru, I mean my guru. As in, I made him myself. I’m still working on my GuruQuest game and this evening that’s meant editing away at the ELIZA script to move it from psychotherapy to gurudom. It’s been pretty hilarious, but also a rather tough writing challenge. I’m trying my best to walk a line between kind of clichéd guru-stuff, but also trying to capture some amount of resonance for people who might actually want to take it moderately seriously.

Frankly, I’m a big fan of the mystical art of guruspeak anyway – the Tao Te Ching is a favourite book of mine, with its paradoxical sentences and existentially booming one-liners. It’s a great mode of expression that’s simultaneously a parody of itself, and extremely insightful and deep at the same time.

Can I write a chatbot script that achieves guru status? Well, here’s a transcript of a conversation I just had with GuruBot 1.0:

Me: I have travelled far. Are you a guru?

Guru: Who can say whether they are a guru or not?

Me: Then you are surely a guru.

Guru: Be uncertain.

Me: Really?

Guru: This is the only world we have.

Me: There is no other?

Guru: Be uncertain.

Me: You already said that.

Guru: You may continue.

Me: What should I say?

Guru: Yes, what should you say.

Me: Help me.

Guru: Go on.

Me: I’m worried about the meaning of life.

Guru: Speak.

Me: Is it all just a cosmic joke?

Guru: Recite.

Me: Is there meaning in anything?

Guru: Do you hear the wind in the trees?

Me: Yes…

Guru: Is it Autumn?

Me: No, it’s Spring.

Guru: Perhaps.

Me: I’m pretty sure it’s Spring.

Guru: A rabbit knows that it runs.

Me: Does it?

Guru: A dog knows that it barks.

Me: Okay.

Guru: A sleeper knows that he sleeps.

Me: I’m not so sure.

Guru: Well?

Me: Well what?

Guru: Why ask?

Me: Why indeed?

Guru: And?

Me: Nothing.

Guru: This.

And on and on and on. He’s an indefatigable guru. He’s a machine.

15 March 2011
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