Chatbot auto-tweets replies to climate change arguments

Nov 04, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

(PhysOrg.com) -- A software developer has created a "chatbot" program for Twitter to automatically detect set phrases associated with arguments put forward by those skeptical of anthropogenic global warming, and to send automated replies of set phrases debunking their arguments.

Nigel Leck’s creation is @AI_AGW (also known as Turing Test), and the script searches the site for hundreds of phrases he believes tend to be used by those who think global warming is not occurring, or who think it is occurring but is not anthropogenic or entirely anthropogenic. When the script finds one of the phrases it then "" a response from an extensive database of countering phrases.

The return tweets are selected to match the phrases found so, for example, tweets about global warming occurring on Mars or Neptune will produce a response suggesting this does not prove the sun is warming and producing Earth’s global warming. Tweets often contain a link to a scientific source or a video refuting the argument.

Leck said he originally wrote many of the rebuttals himself, but he has now extracted many from a university source, but one which he will not identify. Some of the responses relate to religion, which is where Leck says debates with the chatbot often end up.

The tweets are not identified as autoresponses, although the name provides clues, and Leck said many people receiving them continue their “conversations” for hours or days, which is possible because the program selects from a range of responses and does not reply the same way each time.

Leck said if the program “argues them into a corner,” there tends to be two “crowds”: one who resort to the “God created it that way” final response, and a second group Leck calls “skeptics so unyielding they won’t be swayed by any amount of argumentation.”

One problem with the chatbot is its inability to spot sarcasm, which is often rife during extreme weather events such as heat waves, when many tweets suggest it’s so hot outside it’s “a good thing global warming is a myth,” or cold snaps, when tweets sarcastically suggest is a hoax. Leck said the program includes an algorithm that enables it to learn to recognize such false positives, but that he promptly apologizes when the chatbot is found to have irritated Twitter users who are not arguing about climate change, and whitelists their accounts.

Leck said he intends to expand the program at some time by enabling it to cull new phrases from tweets from others (presumably also non-scientists like Leck) debating with those skeptical of climate change arguments. He said this would allow it to argue “into the ground” the increasing number of what he called “anti-science tweeters who are unwilling or unable to look up the proper scientific literature themselves.”

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Arkaleus
2.3 / 5 (22) Nov 04, 2010
This seems like the sort of "government" the greens would have for us: One that simply parses input from an angry and skeptical public and nullifies their protest with a mechanized response. After all, the debate is over, right?

Green totalitarianism makes those decisions for you, comrade.

Skeptic_Heretic
4.2 / 5 (13) Nov 04, 2010
Nigel Leck's creation is @AI_AGW (also known as Turing Test), and the script searches the Twitter site for hundreds of phrases he believes tend to be used by those who think global warming is not occurring, or who think it is occurring but is not anthropogenic or entirely anthropogenic.
I don't think anyone educated in the science of AGCC would ever state that AGCC is entirely antropogenic. The above quoted piece of the article seems to imply that the creator of this turing machine thinks it is.
danman5000
3.5 / 5 (4) Nov 04, 2010
Some of the responses relate to religion, which is where Leck says debates with the chatbot often end up.

That's where you lost me. How can he complain about "anti-science tweeters" later on, when he wrote a bot that responds with non-science?
Simonsez
4.1 / 5 (9) Nov 04, 2010
I don't think anyone educated in the science of AGCC would ever state that AGCC is entirely antropogenic. The above quoted piece of the article seems to imply that the creator of this turing machine thinks it is.


@Skeptic

Thank you for posting this - I came to the same conclusion about that statement. It is unfortunate that most vehement proponents (read: those with a vested interest) seem to ignore any potential natural climate change factors in favor of putting all the responsibility on industry/mankind. Even the moderately educated understand that our pollution has caused plenty of change, and those with at least a middle school science education understand that the climate is cyclical and that natural events can have far-reaching global effects.

I don't have a Twitter account, but this bot sounds incredibly annoying; I'd probably ban/block it on principle.
Ravenrant
3.2 / 5 (12) Nov 04, 2010
This seems rather simplistic to me. It detects a phrase and tweets back "You are an idiot." Anything more complex than that and the skeptics eyes will just glaze over and they go back to reading Palin's or Limbaugh's (2 noted climate and scientific shining intellects) books.
Husky
5 / 5 (15) Nov 04, 2010
I wonder, if you put a global warming robot against a global cooling robot, who will run out of rebuttals first? or will they just keep yelling and throw contradictionary links towards eachother, like humans ?
CSharpner
5 / 5 (3) Nov 04, 2010
“skeptics so unyielding they won’t be swayed by any amount of argumentation.”

Such is the opinion of both in a debate between two stubborn (unyielding) debaters.

I'm not a twitter user, but I'd guess that if twitter supports marking posts as "automated", it's probably a user agreement that you do. He's likely violating that user agreement and should be reported. A more appropriate method would be for him to mark his automated tweets as such AND to word them more politely. He should probably invite them to discuss it, and he should be willing to be "yielding" himself.

Under no circumstances should one enter a debate with the assumption that you could never be wrong. ALWAYS consider the possibility that you may be wrong and be willing to "yield" when new evidence suggests your initial opinion is wrong.
CarolinaScotsman
4.7 / 5 (13) Nov 04, 2010
The difference between discussion and argument is that discussion is looking for the truth. Argument simply wants to win. This bot may be great at arguing but it will never be capable of honest discussion.
Shootist
1.9 / 5 (26) Nov 04, 2010
Cut a Red, he bleeds green. When International Communism failed, the leadership and most of the useful idiots, joined the green movement.

After the failure of totalitarianism; what better way to control the means of production?
CSharpner
4 / 5 (8) Nov 04, 2010
Cut a Red, he bleeds green. When International Communism failed, the leadership and most of the useful idiots, joined the green movement.

After the failure of totalitarianism; what better way to control the means of production?

Regardless of any opinions or facts on climate change, Shootist is right. There ARE people who would like to commandeer this movement for their own totalitarian purposes. That doesn't mean the movement itself IS that. It simply means, it's a convenient tool for those who'd like to.

I fived you Shootist, as well as most of the other posts on this thread. Being open minded means you consider arguments from those sides that your emotions try to prevent you from doing.
Donutz
3.4 / 5 (15) Nov 04, 2010
This seems like the sort of "government" the greens would have for us: One that simply parses input from an angry and skeptical public and nullifies their protest with a mechanized response.


You're missing the point -- that denialist arguments are so stereotyped and sloganized that a turing machine can successfully rebut them. Even your response, which is nothing more than a standard dismissive attaching of a label. "Oh we don't have to listen to them, because they're GREENS!" Oooh! boogedy boogedy.

hemitite
3.2 / 5 (13) Nov 04, 2010
Donutz,

Perhaps the same may be said for the "green" arguments, after all many of those folks appear to be religious fanatics who view almost all human activity as "evil" and human existence as a plague.
JDoddsGW
2.5 / 5 (8) Nov 04, 2010
Computer programs can be programmed to be wrong.
Case in point this twitter program
2nd case- the climate programs.
Arrhenius in 1896 said that more GHGs means more warming, which has been programmed into the climate models & IPCC. Problem is that not all increases in GHGs lead to warming (it doesn't warm when you add more Water Vapor GHG when it rains).
The Arrhenius science is wrong. If you have excess GHGs as are produced every night when the incoming energy reduces, the temperature reduces, the GHE reduces and the unused GHGs become excess in the air, then it is possible for more GHE to happen even though there has been no increase in GHGs. The Arrhenius science conclusion, is wrong. It fails to realize that there always is more GHGs than energy photons. So more GHGs just becomes more excess, not necessarily more warming.
The twitter programmer needs to learn more physics instead of more programming.
Tesla2
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 04, 2010
"You are a disease of this planet. And we...are the cure..."
Arkaleus
2.3 / 5 (16) Nov 04, 2010
I'm glad that people are making the connection between political and financial control and the "green" agenda. "Control" lies at the very core of "Green" and you can't force others to your will unless you overcome the concept of free states and constitutions.

You will find within every eco-fanatic a hatred of independent countries, and animosity towards individual liberty and free commerce. They push green agendas to punish and destroy those groups they hate, and when you press them for their reasons they grow angry and will strenuously justify themselves as authorities and accuse you of being wicked or wrong.

Totalitarianism doesn't tolerate debate either; it's the will of the ruling power that decides what you will do. The master of the total state is also its chief priest, and the green totalitarian is the priest of their new fundamentalist religion.
CSharpner
4.4 / 5 (9) Nov 04, 2010
You're missing the point -- that denialist arguments are so stereotyped and sloganized that a turing machine can successfully rebut them

I was not aware it was doing so successfully... only that it identifies phrases and sends an automated response. How does it handle responses with evidence that may actually cast doubt on its argument? It probably ends the thread with no response. It wouldn't realize the rebuttal because it's only looking for catch phrases. Looks more like a very closed minded person, who, rather than willing to discuss it human to human, is so sure he's right, he feels compelled to provide his "services to humanity" to tell those who have a different opinion how wrong and stupid they are. Arrogance to the extreme.

Note, I've not made any comment about climate change itself, nor its cause... ONLY about this app and the person who wrote it.
KevinPEdwards
3.3 / 5 (4) Nov 04, 2010
JDoddsGW:
Your argument would seem to imply that the current level of GHG is absorbing all the radiated and reflected heat coming from the Earth. This could be that your wording is confusing to me when you say it's "possible for more GHE to happen".

The best analogy I could come up with is imagine an overhead projector sheet. A black dot will block light passing through it like a GHG will block heat passing through the atmosphere. The more you increase the dot concentration the less light will pass through. The higher the GHG concentration within the atmosphere the more energy it will absorb passing through, and subsequently be re-radiated in all directions.
ForFreeMinds
2.5 / 5 (8) Nov 04, 2010
This technology can be used to generate tweets of arguments for those skeptical of AGW. Soon, the tweeters on both sides may be overwhelmed. I suppose I could be wrong, I don't tweet.
sstritt
3 / 5 (10) Nov 04, 2010
I wonder what the carbon footprint of all this useless tweeting is?
jsa09
5 / 5 (1) Nov 04, 2010
Useless Tweeting? most probably. Is making a series of standard responses and picking from them at random a decent thing to do? Very unlikely.

Many years ago I wrote a program that allowed members to ask it questions and it supplied the answers. The broader the range of questions the larger the database of answers I needed. By limiting it to responding to negative AGW comments he has made it so much simpler to respond. I performed some experiments by answering some questions in a negative and argumentative way. In my experience this quickly degenerated into people bursting into a very aggressive attitude towards my Application.

Imagine if we have App vs App arguments and people just sit back and watch.
Sanescience
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 05, 2010
I'm sorry, I was looking for an argument, not abuse.
sstritt
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 05, 2010
I'm sorry, I was looking for an argument, not abuse.

No you're not!
ekim
1.6 / 5 (8) Nov 05, 2010
The earth has an atmosphere.
The atmosphere acts as a blanket.
The atmosphere contains oxygen.
Oxygen has two atoms.
Burning hydrocarbons destroys oxygen.
Burning hydrocarbons creates carbon dioxide and water.
Carbon dioxide and water each have three molecules.
Three is bigger than two.
A bigger more dense atmosphere is a warmer blanket.
The earth grows warmer as we burn hydrocarbons.
Where is the flaw in that logic?
ekim
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 05, 2010
AI's don't use blankets.
knikiy
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 06, 2010
thanks to AI, the argument can continue long after we're gone
Husky
5 / 5 (2) Nov 06, 2010
Yes this reminds me of Asimov, the Last Question
Yvan_Dutil
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 07, 2010
Computer programs can be programmed to be wrong.
Case in point this twitter program
2nd case- the climate programs.
Arrhenius in 1896 said that more GHGs means more warming, which has been programmed into the climate models & IPCC. Problem is that not all increases in GHGs lead to warming (it doesn't warm when you add more Water Vapor GHG when it rains).
The Arrhenius science is wrong. If you have excess GHGs as are produced every night when the incoming energy reduces, the temperature reduces, the GHE reduces and the unused GHGs become excess in the air, then it is possible for more GHE to happen even though there has been no increase in GHGs. The Arrhenius science conclusion, is wrong. It fails to realize that there always is more GHGs than energy photons. So more GHGs just becomes more excess, not necessarily more warming.
The twitter programmer needs to learn more physics instead of more programming.


This exactely the kind of ridiculous statement that a bot could answer i
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (6) Nov 07, 2010
One thing is clear.. they should definitely make an anti-creationist edition of this chatbot.. :D
ekim
5 / 5 (4) Nov 07, 2010
One thing is clear.. they should definitely make an anti-creationist edition of this chatbot.. :D

The lack of logic causes their circuits to overload and heads to explode. It's a classic defense mechanism from B rated movies of the 60's.
Grizzled
2.7 / 5 (7) Nov 07, 2010
So what he has shown is that AGW proponents can (and do)argue with cut and paste method, without thinking and analysing the issue. I'm not surprised his test subjects became annoyed and irritated - they were trying to use logic and arguments only to have their AI opponet come back with inane stereotypical remarks.
Mayday
4 / 5 (4) Nov 07, 2010
The program is clever, but has two serious faults. One) it obfuscates, distracting time and energy away firm any real or serious discussion, and two) it can only recycle the old arguments as a roadblock to authentic discourse. I see it as the poster-child of AGW stonewalling. This important issue should be a reasoned dialog, not a clever "talk to the hand."
toyo
5 / 5 (3) Nov 08, 2010
Well!
Now THERE's a great addition to tweeting convenience!
All we need now is a similar bot for ALL arguments found in twitter.
Then, maybe, the mindless thousands that use it might just realise what twitter is about!
Geoffrey_Cairney
5 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2010
point 1 @arkaleus surely you troll
point 2 @people calling this program a fail.
This program has stimulated this truly unique and even interesting discussion: Considering the repetative and uninspired nature of most GW discusions online, That is a win.
thermodynamics
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 08, 2010
I think the skeptics have already written one of these for physorg and named it marjon.
wwqq
2 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2010
Where is the flaw in that logic?


Here:

The atmosphere acts as a blanket.


No. A blanket warms by retaining the heat you generate while lying beneath it. It does this by preventing conduction(fibers are poor conductors and provide a circuitous path) and convection(pockets of air in the blanket are tiny and very many).

The atmosphere does not prevent convection/conduction to space because there's no gas in space. It's all about radiative transfer.

A bigger more dense atmosphere is a warmer blanket.


Non sequitur. The density of a gas tells you exactly nothing about it's ability to act like a greenhouse gas. CO2 is a greenhouse gas because it absorbs some infrared, but lets visible light right through.

Stop helping the deniers by posting vacuous crap.
CSharpner
3 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2010
Stop helping the deniers by posting vacuous crap.

Yes, Thanks!

BTW, which deniers?
1. Climate Change Deniers?
2. AGW Deniers?
3. Climate Change Bias Deniers?
Skeptic_Heretic
1 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2010
So what he has shown is that AGW proponents can (and do)argue with cut and paste method, without thinking and analysing the issue. I'm not surprised his test subjects became annoyed and irritated - they were trying to use logic and arguments only to have their AI opponet come back with inane stereotypical remarks.

You mean just like every skeptic comment that comes out of the big business echo chamber?
GSwift7
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 08, 2010
SH, you know very well that the propaganda machine on the green side is much larger than the one on the skeptic side. Just do a few google searches to look for web sites on "how to respond to a xxxxx" and fill in the X's with words that describe people on either one side of the fence or the other, and you'll see what I mean.

Really, this bot can be said to be a sign of weakness in its very existence. Every one of the trigger phrases this bot searches for can be said to be a known point of weakness in the AGW argument.

I wonder how many of the auto responses contain a phrase something like "most scientists agree", which of course prooves nothing?

This bot is little more than a way of automating the efforts of groups that have organized volunteers who do this already on blogs and sites like this one.
ekim
not rated yet Nov 08, 2010
It would be easy to program a bot to respond "Global warming is a hoax!" anytime somebody mentions global warming. I think we have all seen this. It is also easy to program another bot to respond "Your a liar!" every time bot one responds. How ever if the two bots could learn the arguments of the opposing side and the rebuttals to these arguments we would have two experts on the global warming debate. People couldn't post lies or half-truths with out being caught. All evidence would have to be backed up by some verifiable source. You are on to something Thermodynamics ,question is who is the other bot/bots?
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Nov 09, 2010
SH, you know very well that the propaganda machine on the green side is much larger than the one on the skeptic side.
No, the lunatic fringe of AGCC are the alarmists. The lunatic fringe of the denialist camp is backed by massive business interests and huge amounts of campaign dollars.
Just do a few google searches to look for web sites on "how to respond to a xxxxx" and fill in the X's with words that describe people on either one side of the fence or the other, and you'll see what I mean.
Are you really going to try to tell me that isn't an apt description of both sides of the argument?
Really, this bot can be said to be a sign of weakness in its very existence. Every one of the trigger phrases this bot searches for can be said to be a known point of weakness in the AGW argument.
Well, like I said above, this bot is a ridiculous thing and appears to be the spawn of an alarmist.(read: lunatic AGCC fringe, non-scientist)
GSwift7
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 09, 2010
I wonder if a bot can be thought of as an expression of his second ammendment right to free speech, or if the use of a computer program is something else?
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2010
I wonder if a bot can be thought of as an expression of his second ammendment right to free speech, or if the use of a computer program is something else?
Interesting question. If it fell under free speech, would some virus-type programs also be considered free speech? (the non-destructive type).
GSwift7
2.2 / 5 (6) Nov 09, 2010
Actually SH, I'll defer to you on which side is better funded, but with a condition. In regard to cap and trade, the anti-cap and trad side is vastly better funded. The number of lobyists in washington who have been hired to oppose cap and trade is astounding. Some people say that the efforts being put into lobying against cap and trade are unprecedented in our history. So you are right in that regard. Even many of the alarmists aren't blind enough not to see that cap and trade is just a money grab by certain power elites disguised as environmental law.

On the other hand, if you take cap and trade out of the picture (because nearly the only part big business cares about), the balance changes 180 degrees in favor of the environmentalists. The environmentalists are far more organized and well funded than the people who oppose them, with the exception of the cap and trade issue. Big business doesn't give a hoot about the hockey stick, climategate, or IPCC peer review processes.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.5 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2010
Even many of the alarmists aren't blind enough not to see that cap and trade is just a money grab by certain power elites disguised as environmental law.
You mean George Bush Senior?

Cap n' Trade was his baby, many think that's the prime reason why he was so thoroughly dismantled in his bid for re-election.
On the other hand, if you take cap and trade out of the picture (because nearly the only part big business cares about)
Well if you take land use and pollution out of the ordeal the environmentalist money is gone and it's all big business. The tough thing here is whether CO2 is an actual pollutant, or a pollutant of convenience in media circles.

We all need to take a step back and let the scientists do their work, transparently.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) Nov 10, 2010
"The tough thing here is whether CO2 is an actual pollutant"

Actually that's only half the question.

Let's say hypothetically that there's 100% proof that man made CO2 is going to kill more than half of life on the planet in 200 years. Is there any sustainable and effective solution? I'm not sure if even the US can afford the cost of what it would take with current technology, much less a country like Mexico.