Jim Wightman has responded to my earlier posts about his ChatNannies software with the following (originally left in the comment section of one of the linked-to posts). I'm including his response in its entirety and interspersing my own comments.

Hi, there,

I thought it best to let the dust settle a little before I responded to your queries regarding our AI technology.

I'm sure you'd agree that the evils that all our children potentially face on the internet need all the ideas and work we can get. We don't pretend to have all the answers - we're only at the beginning - but if our work stimulates others to do even better then we shall feel that we've done our bit. And if your ideas help, then many thanks. So, to your points

"He's got 100,000 bots running, but only 2000 conversations in which the bot has gone undetected. That's a miserably low success rate, and actually quite believable. I suspect these numbers were intended to mean something else, but what?"

Actually the reporting on this is slightly inaccurate - and because of this the analysis of it is too. The figure of 2000 is a low estimate figure of how many volunteer users we had concurrently testing the bots in one chatroom. This was way before any media interest, back in the really early testing phases. In total we clocked well over 150,000 hours of testing between us in various different configurations using different strategies. This was a 'try it and see' approach to forging the algorithms that we use to spot paedophiles using only their use of words, sentence structure, and other 'written word' linguistic qualities.

I find it absolutely unbelievable that you gathered 2000 volunteers in one chatroom at the same time. Gathering this many volunteers would have required a lot of publicity and would have been noticed. Plus, were some of your volunteers actual pedophiles who thought they were volunteering to seduce children? Having people pretend to be pedophiles would be counter-productive, since your whole theory is based around the idea that a computer could detect pedophiles more accurately than a human could -- thus, it would be very difficult for a human to act in a pedophile-like manner so as to train your system.
The other inaccuracy in the report was that while we have over 100,000 spawned instances of the bots running at any one time (at full capacity), in reality only about 1/3 of these survive to chat in chatrooms. I've noted elsewhere that we are at a really early stage of development still (15 years on) and we still get regular crashes for the most innocuous of reasons...
You've been working on this system for 15 years? Please, that's absurd. Super-computers from 15 years ago couldn't come close to running a neural network of the scale you're talking about (but then, modern computers couldn't run 100,000 instances of such a neural network either). Plus, I doubt pedophiles in chatrooms were a real problem in 1989!
so most bots either crash before they choose a chatroom to monitor, or crash by resolving the hostname incorrectly, or get locked by the connection, or drop out once they get to the room because of a variety of problems. Obviously we are working at this, and progress is slow (because I have a day job too) but we hope to get all this ironed out in time for demonstrations.
These functions are all incredibly easy compared to the other achievements you claim. There are hundreds of chatbots that successfully perform all these tasks with no difficulty -- certainly without crashing. The idea that you could create such an astounding AI system and yet not be able to manage a few network connections is ludicrous.
"If this is a fraud, it would be a lot easier and safer to profit from government hand-outs than to actually risk revealing the "system" to technically-savvy investors. This is why reputable scientists publish the details of their research."

Once again, I'm afraid we have some inaccurate reporting. I didn't tell the New Scientist at any point that we were only relying on government handouts - nor that that we cared particularly where sponsorship came from - only that we were looking for sponsorship and investment to accelerate the growth and development of both the ChatNannies site and the AI.

If you want to accelerate development, release the code to the academic community. Within no time you'll have hundreds of the best and brightest AI thinkers in the world (after yourself, of course) building on your foundation.
"If the system is genuine, this is a remarkable feat of comprehension."

Thank you, We've worked very hard to get this AI to where it is, working on it for 15 years or more.

Perhaps you didn't notice the qualifying "if".
"Beyond all this, the creator claims the software can reliably detect pedophiles based on non-sexual conversations? No way. Human children and parents can't even do that face-to-face, and we're finely tuned to pick up on vocal, physical, and conversational cues that aren't present in text chats."

Well as I mentioned earlier, we have done a hell of a lot of testing to back this claim up - its not something we would claim lightly. We aren't actually trying to detect paedophiles per se however...we are comparing the linguistic structure of an average 14 year old with that of any number of users currently in a chatroom. If we get values which indicate a significant rise above that average 14 year old level of complexity in linguistics, there are algorithms to spot this happening. The reality is that the 'scores' given to different age groups, and those things that indicate an extension of age beyond this score, were built by repetitive testing and chatting with human users, so it really is nothing exciting in terms of advancement. In fact I am shortly contributing to a paper here in the UK for someone at Edinburgh University about this very topic.

Nonsense. I have a strong background in developmental psychology, and 14-year-olds have the same basic linguistic capabilities as adults. Concrete reasoning really takes shape before that age. It would probably be possible to distinguish between 10-year-olds and adults, but I doubt you could reliably tell the difference between 14-year-olds and adults based purely on grammar and complexity.

Even if you could, what purpose would this serve? It's not like every adult who talks with kids is a pedophile; in fact, don't you propose putting human "Nannies" into chatrooms? Most teenagers probably chat with adults very frequently about a wide range of topics (from sports to video games).

Furthermore, adults who prey on 14-year-olds aren't technically pedophiles; pedophiles are attracted to pre-pubescent children. (I couldn't remember the term for an attraction to adolescents, but here it is: ephebophilia.)

Since I too am quite sceptical I can fully understand your viewpoint. I'm sorry that we as yet have not provided the 'killer' evidence that we would love to provide - the truth is, as I brushed upon before, we simply were not ready for this level of media attention and so are not as far along with development as we would like to demonstrate to members of the public or press. It is however, as stated elsewhere, our intention to enter the Loebner prize to prove in an open yet tightly controlled forum that our work is genuine and corroborates the evidence we have presented thus far.
Show me the source code. I'll sign an NDA, and I'll take a week off work to examine it thoroughly. There's no other evidence you need to show me. Just zip it all up and email it to me.
In the meantime, I am very happy to answer any queries you have about any parts of the AI in which you are particularly interested; please understand however that to answer a question such as 'how does it work' might take a little more than a few hours :-)
I don't have any questions I want you to answer; I want to see the source code myself. Nothing else will convince me.
Best wishes


Nothing you say holds water. You've indicated that you're eager to reveal your technology and aren't concerned with making money, so cough up the source code. Show me even a single file. Show me the routine that evaluates and trains your neural net. Show me the structure that defines your neurons and constructs the network. Show me your lexer or parser. Show me anything concrete.

Stop responding with vague hand-waving and inapplicable buzz-words. Give me source code or just go away, you're wasting my time.

P.S., I've been all over this story from the very beginning, but I'm getting bored with it. It's obviously a hoax, and as amusing as it may be for Mr. Wightman there's really no purpose for me to continue discussing it. Barring the revelation of actual source code, I doubt I'll be writing more on the topic.



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