back to article Google says its latest chatbot is the most human-like ever – trained on our species' best works: 341GB of social media

AI researchers at Google have trained a giant neural network using a whopping 341GB of discussions scraped from public social media to create what they believe is the most human-like chatbot ever. The software, dubbed Meena, has at its heart a Tensorflow seq2seq model containing conversations encoded as streams of vectors that …

  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    I can't think of many things that I would like less than communicating with a ChatBot....

    Couple of words spring to mind : Cold, Lifeless, Clueless , Funless, Loveless, Careless, piece of shit...

    You know , talking to real people is really not a problem... Even some stuck up, conceited arsehole would be far more interesting to "communicate" with than a very expensive, and almost useless, chatbot.

    On top of that, they scraped the text from Social Media websites, how can that be considered as a good example dataset ? Social Media website are usually full ranting and raving rather than any real conversations....

    1. TRT Silver badge

      That's more than a couple of words...

      1. Simon Harris

        Do you know why you're so good at counting words? Because you're outstanding in your field!

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          I have to wonder if that kind of joke is now "formulaic" enough for an AI to appreciate... [but the rest of us just facepalm]

          I'd laugh more if it were something like this:

          Q: how many robots does it take to change a light bulb?

          A: One, but it has to be a "light bulb changing robot"

          or maybe this:

          A man, a woman, and a robot went to a bar. The man ordered scotch on the rocks. The woman ordered a strawberry daiquiri. The robot didn't order anything. Why?

          Because it's a ROBOT, that's why!

          (In Final Fantasy XIII-2 there's a bad jokester that you have to interact with as one of the in-game quests. You basically need to throw bad jokes back at him until he reveals something to you - "This medical book is worthless - it has no appendix!". Reading the back/forth between Human and Meena kinda reminded me of that, at the end...)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yep. "Chat bot" seems to be the wrong approach to the problem. Understanding context, position, subject seems more important that just being able to pass a line of text/lookup table on canned answers. Trained gans/etc seem to get closer to this (IIRC the Unicorn one was quite good). But again, I don't know if any of them really by design track subject of discussion, words that consider changes to it/scope/theme ("I don't want to talk about that/no more jokes, and the bot in the article... tells more jokes).

      To a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And this looks like trying to recreate a human physiology, using granite and chisels. You *will* get a perfect outline, but it won't be able to run!

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Social Media website are usually full ranting and raving..

      Said by someone who has just posted a rant to a social media website (El Reg comments).

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Social Media website are usually full ranting and raving..

        Said by someone who has just posted a rant to a social media website (El Reg comments). ..... Anonymous Coward

        Social media website (El Reg comments) ?????

        Oh please, you cannot be serious, AC. You must be extremely new to here.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Social Media website are usually full ranting and raving..

          Me too, I can’t get enough of Roger Federer!

  2. TRT Silver badge

    Learn a new language eh?

    Le singe est dans l'abre? C'est exceptionnel dans le domaine!

    1. Tail Up

      Re: Learn a new language eh?

      Lingua Latina - non penis caninæ {est}

  3. Sgt_Oddball

    Hummm soo...

    They've managed to create a very USian sounding machine (I know, I know) but sarcasm aside.. I see it struggling with Brits. Especially when you trained against said sarcasm but then maybe it'll continue to act American and end up hopeless confused? I'll only be impressed by these things when they can finally do nuance and subtly.

    1. Scoured Frisbee

      Re: Hummm soo...

      Did you see that ludicrous display last night? The thing about Arsenal is, they always try to walk it in.

      1. JDPower Bronze badge

        Re: Hummm soo...

        Do you know why? Cos they're outstanding in their field.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Hummm soo...

      I used to watch Monty Python a lot when I was a teenager, when the local PBS station played them [back in the 70's where they were still mostly 'new']. I got used to British-style humor, even looked forward to it. But I know what you mean when a couple of the Python troop were on Saturday Night Live, and they did the Parrot sketch, and nobody laughed... [I'm like WHAT?]

      then again the Saturday Night Live audience is often hostile to REAL humor [but they overtly laugh at 'pandering to the perception' "humor" so go fig]. Real humor is like John Cleese doing silly walks, or Terry Jones as Mr. Gumby, or accidentally walking in on Graham Chapman, looking for an argument, but getting 'abuse' instead...

      I generally don't watch US'ian sitcoms. I just don't think they're funny... except the Roseanne show. THAT is funny! [kid #1 rants about unfairness, storms out. Kid #2 does the same. Kid #3 does something similar. Then the parents high five each other]

      But if I need an injection of humor I've always got the box set of python shows on DVD...

      /me walks off chanting "spam spam spam spam"

  4. Godwhacker

    Barking up the wrong tree

    All any chatbot needs to do is look up the day of the week and they'll be undetectable.

    Monday and Tuesday: "Have a nice weekend"?

    Wednesday: "Can't believe it's only Wednesday"

    Thursday and Friday: "Any plans for weekend"?

    Saturday and Sunday safely remain undefined, as nobody will be talking to it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I am call-ing you a-bout your broad-band...

    (coming soon)

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: HE-LL-O

      yeah you have to wonder how many bot-calls you'll be getting that attempt to use an AI to lure you into pressing 5 to continue...

      Even when the law cracks down on them, I've been getting more, recently. Most of them are hangups. A couple of them are the usual "you have problems with your Micro Soft computer" or "your Micro Soft license has expired" in one of the old windows text-to-speech voices. But the worst ones of all have a natural sounding male voice saying "Is XXX there?" [personalized to YOUR name, of course!] which is then followed by lengthy silence...

      You have most likely identified the ONLY use for conversational robots within the next 20 years, until they start walking around and going to the grocery store to buy our food for us. Or, deliver our pizza.

    2. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

      Re: HE-LL-O

      > I am call-ing you a-bout your broad-band...

      Me too, I can’t get enough of ... Pussy Riot!

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Broken by design

    Google says that Meena is "built to have convincing chinwags with its human handlers", but it also says that "humans interacting with these systems have to do so in a rigid manner".

    Well that is all sens of reality gone out the window. If I'm chatting with a friend, the interaction will have no rigidity at all. The manner will be relaxed, jpyful and possibly all over the place, but rigid it will not be.

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: Broken by design

      You confused the subjects of those statements.

      Meena is "built to have convincing chinwags with its human handlers."

      Other chat bots require "humans interacting with these systems have to do so in a rigid manner."

      Either way they can be spotted within a few sentences by the nonsensical bollox they spout. It seems Google would do better training their bots to copy amanfrommars.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Broken by design


        We do not want more than one of them!

    2. Simon Harris

      Re: Broken by design

      "The manner will be relaxed, joyful and possibly all over the place involve beer"

      It won't be a convincing AI unless it can stand a round.

      1. Kubla Cant

        Re: Broken by design

        Do you know why it's convincing AI? Because it's roundstanding in its field!

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Broken by design

          why did the turkey cross the road?

          It was stapled to a chicken

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Broken by design

      "How's Wolfie?"

      "Wolfie is fine" (etc.)

      "Your foster parents are dead."

  7. Hawkeye Pierce

    Don't understand...

    Sorry, they're aiming for realistic intelligence and yet they trained it using social media posts????

    Is this some new definition of intelligence that I'm not aware of?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Don't understand...

      Artificial intelligence's next step is genuine ignorance.

    2. Simon Harris
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Don't understand...

      "trained it using social media posts"

      In that case I'm surprised the chatbot didn't want to talk about the CardassiansKardashians* or the conversation descend into Nazi hate-speak (they must have learned their lesson after Microsoft's attempt!).

      * more alien to me than the Cardassians.

      Equally vapid ------------>

      1. Hawkeye Pierce

        Re: Don't understand...

        That's a good point about the Kardashians...

        If you go to a Wikipedia page of your choice, and click on the first link in the main body of text for that page, and keep doing that, more often than not you end up on the Philosophy page (pro-gamers: count how many clicks it takes you...).

        So yes, I wonder if you engage the chatbot for long enough, do all conversations lead to the Kardashians?

  8. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    I can't wait for a chatbot to answer all my calls imitating my voice

    1. Simon Harris

      Surely such a comment demands this icon ----------------------->

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    An example of Meena getting weird.

    Or "an exchange on Twitter" as I like to call it.

  10. Korev Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Not hard

    You just need some ideas:

    "Did you see that ludicrous display last night"

    "Thing about Arsenal is they always try walk it in"

  11. Chris G


    The chat in the article looked just like the real chats I have seen on my wife's Whatsapp pages.

    Vacuous, pointless and content free. I have met quite a few people that couldn't pass the Turing test.

    In defence of my wife the chat is stuff she has shown me from people she works with.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      "I have met quite a few people that couldn't pass the Turing test."

      Thanks Chris G. So have I, and they seem to be getting increasingly common.

      2.6 billion parameters, 2,048 Google-designed TPU v3 cores (what power consumption I wonder) all to generate vacuous twaddle. I can get that for free any day at the bus stop.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        Re: "I have met quite a few people that couldn't pass the Turing test."

        I have my doubts about many of the "people" on company "help" lines.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Wow!

      " I have met quite a few people that couldn't pass the Turing test."

      The equivalent of a Turing test for artificial intelligence is actually a GOOD idea...

      (or actual human intelligence, for that matter)

    3. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Wow!

      > just like the real chats I have seen on my wife's Whatsapp pages

      Well that's "small talk" (or sometimes even "microscopic talk"), the awkward point where you have absolutely nothing to say to each other, but social conventions demand that you keep conversing like long-lost best friends. Cue the weather.

      The problem is that it is a very annoying if not painful exercise, so building a machine to be able to suffer that without any social justification is pure madness, IMHO at least. Which other awkward and annoying social moment they will build a simulator for?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    discussions scraped from public social media

    ah, the cream of the cream! But people, weep not, for this is the embodiment of what homo sapiens REALLY is.

  13. msknight

    That does it...

    All my emails will now be done in Wenglish to google to be sure from now on boyo; won't it, you see.

  14. Cuddles

    What's the problem?

    "their opening replies may pass as human, but the next sentences won't make sense or are just completely factually incorrect"

    How exactly does this differ from talking to a human on the internet?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the problem?

      Nah. If the chatbot was really close to being undetectable, it would reply to every comment completely missing the point while adding in bias and strawmen they accuse you of, while making in droves themselves. ;)

      1. Chris G

        Re: What's the problem?

        Also needs to interject the word 'like' several times into every sentence.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: What's the problem?

          don't forget bad grammar and spelling errors

          1. Chris G

            Re: What's the problem?

            "don't forget bad grammar and spelling errors"

            Sorry you've loosed me there!

  15. IT's getting kinda boring

    I can fully believe it.

    It will talk shit all day with only the PHBs taking any notice.

    Oh, if only we could tailor it to PHB talk. Loads of buzz words, no substance, followed by suggestions to find the nearest window to jump from.

    Or, just maybe, to forgo his bonus and reward the workers (who are the ones who really deserve the money).

    I do see some possibilities here!

  16. Kimo

    Skynet doesn't scare me. The YouTube comments section becoming sentient, that's my worst nightmare.

  17. T. F. M. Reader

    Executive summary

    Google chatbot designers are outstanding in their field.

  18. izzylake

    Sad thing is that it is already better at conversations and jokes than I am :(

  19. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Update on twaddle generator

    Earlier I posted asking the power consumption of this beast."2,048 Google-designed TPU v3 cores"? Well the latest from Wikipedia says the TPU v1 consumes 28-40 watts. Being generous by assuming this is unchanged and taking the lowest figure, that's just over 57 kW. The boring folks at the bus stop can do the same on a bowl of cornflakes. And no wonder we have global warming.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Update on twaddle generator

      if you use cogeneration, and/or being that it's currently winter [so the extra heat generated by the cores _could_ be used to keep the rooms warm] then you're not wasting any of that energy...

      [even though I wholeheartedly DIS-agree with the last (OT) sentence in your post]

      I never have to heat my home office, when there are 3 computers doing it for me. It's 1-2 degrees F warmer than the rest of the house... [especially the bedroom which has 2 walls facing the elements - I have to use an electric heater so I don't freeze at night and wake up sick every morning]

      Co-generation is such a good idea, I'm surprised more people aren't doing it. A perfect example is when you use natural gas to make eletricity, and THEN use the heat from the engine to heat water [which you would be doing anyway with the same amount of natural gas]. Extra electricity goes onto the grid. Also, hot water from the engine jacket can be used to run an 'absorption chiller' for the summer when you need chilled water. If this were done by municipalities, who could then sell the hot/chilled water and/or steam along with the electricity, it would make a really good efficient solution, one that consumes very little additional fuel over JUST making the hot water.

      Similarly, a data center with co-generation COULD [in many ways] do the same kind of thing. It would make the technology cost less, and probabably make the climate change crowd happier because it's not using as much fossil fuel any more. Or if it were (in part) solar, using solar heated water and solar electricity for the building, same basic idea. Ah, hell, just combine the technologies to handle peak demands in summer/winter as well as bad weather days... so yeah not really a problem to use "all that power" when you make good use of the waste heat.

      /me re-considers moving the server into the bedroom, at least during the winter.

  20. Carpet Deal 'em

    Google is holding off releasing the code publicly for now while it assesses safety and bias resilience to 4chan in the model.

    No need to pretend otherwise, Google.

  21. Cynic_999

    I win

    Baker Street, Waterloo, then Northern line to Mornington Crescent.

    I win

  22. Il'Geller

    Google uses search technology to get answers and is looking for them offline, although Google is known for finding answers only online. Which means that Google is not an online company anymore and uses new technology.

  23. Mike 16

    Consicuously absent.

    Why did they not publish a comparison versus Tay.

    (No not the river is Scotland)

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