Chatbot Takes on Global Warming Deniers

  • Published on November 3rd, 2010

"Thank you, helpful robot!"

“Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.”

Faced with a blizzard of climate denialist talking points, Nigel Leck took Oscar Wilde’s dictum to heart and went out and did something.

He wrote a script.

Every five minutes the “chatbot” AI_ AGW checks Twitter for a series of stock phrases, the global warming talking points that get repeated over and over and over, long after they’ve been debunked. And then it engages, replying with a simple, pithy, refutation, with links to actual scientific sources. At first they were his own responses, but he’s been adding to the database.

Writing at MIT’s Technology Review, Christopher Mims notes:

Like other chatbots, lots of people on the receiving end of its tweets have no idea they’re not conversing with a real human being. Some of them have arguments with the chatbot spanning dozens of tweets and many days, says Leck. That’s in part because AI_AGW is smart enough to run through a list of different canned responses when an interlocutor continues to throw the same arguments at it. Leck has even programmed it to debate such esoteric topics as religion – which is where the debates humans have with the bot often wind up.

“If [the chatbot] actually argues them into a corner, it tends to be two crowds out there,” says Leck. “There’s the guns and God crowd, and their parting shot will be ‘God created it that way’ or something like that. I don’t know how you answer that.”

Leck definitely has a sense of humor… the name on the Twitter account, for instance, is Turing Test, and the bio is “Looking for simple questions with well-known answers.”

But alas, AI_AGW itself is lacking in the humor department. The only time the system breaks down: The chatbot can’t differentiate between stupidity and sarcasm.

(Via) (Forbidden Planet Robot photo via Michael Heilemann under Creative Commons License)

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • A great argument that people never really connect:

    “Also important: even if you are a total AGW denier. You know for sure in your heart that it’s never gonna happen. Say that you’ve got PhDs in math, computer science, physics, geology, meteorology and climatology and have through your multi-disciplinary insights and general brilliance proven 10k scientists wrong. Even if all that is true, here’s the whopper for you:
    The rest of the world is just stupid enough to believe those 10k scientists. They are going to spend literally *trillions of dollars* on this tech. The US has had its manufacturing sector – the primary wealth-generator – sucked away. But high-tech manufacturing can still be done as cheaply here as anywhere else. Also, wherever the tech is invented is where the royalty money will go.
    therefore, if you cynically pretend to buy in to the AGW boondoggle, you can totally revive the collapsing US economy, turn us from a debtor nation into a creditor nation, and create an environment in which real incomes rise for more than 5% of US citizens for the first time in 40 years.
    whether it’s because 10k scientists working for 40 years have actually got it right or because 150+ governments around the world are run by idiots, why wouldn’t you want to suck trillions away from the rest of the world into the US, where it will ultimately enrich you, if you live here, and your family, assuming the same.

    By setting renewable requirements and funding specialized R&D, we spend a lot of money it’s true. But by doing that, we create the incentives for some of the most innovative people and companies in the world to invent and manufacture the products that will bring far more wealth into the country than we will spend.

    we are 300 million of 6+ billion. We are 1/20th of the world. Thus, if we can capture 10% of the world market for these techs, we will earn twice as much as we spend.

    and, here’s the cruddy part. If you don’t have 8 PhDs and haven’t figured out the weakness that 10k scientists missed, then when we don’t encourage this R&D, we not only *don’t* grab that 10% of the market, we’ll end up having to send our money overseas for the tech that everyone else will invent while we sit on our hands.

    You might think that’s a small risk, but when we stand to gain money by saying it’s a real crisis whether we’re right or just cynically pretending it’s a real crisis and stand to lose money only if we don’t act like it’s a crisis…I’ll take the guaranteed profit any day of the week.

    Why is it that AGW deniers only think about the money spent and never about the money earned? Every buck spent by someone is earned by someone else. Why not rake it in?”

  • I don’t expect that ordinary people should have to understand completely what exactly means Climate changes. But politicians as they obtain more information every day, they should realize if the information are based on reasonable facts.
    I guess that the biggest evidence we ever could get about the atmospheric warming were melted glaciers from Greenland in the past months…

  • Climate Scientists make up scare stories to get money.
    Politicians believed the scare stories and sent money.
    It looks like the voters are beginning to realize that the scare stories have been made up.

    Cap and Tax was a suicidal solution to a non-problem.

    From 2001 through August 2010 the atmospheric CO2 increased by 21% of the total increase from 1800 to 2001 while the average global temperature has not increased significantly and the trend of the average of the five reporting agencies from 2001 through 2009 is down. The 21% CO2 increase is the significant measurement.

    As this wide and rapidly growing separation between the rising CO2 level and not-rising temperature continues, more and more people are beginning to realize that maybe they missed something.

    A simple equation, with inputs of only sunspot number and carbon dioxide level, calculates the average global temperature trends since 1895 with 88% accuracy. See the equation, an eye-opening graph of the results and how they are derived in the pdfs at (see especially the pdfs made public on 4/10/10 and 6/27/10). The future average global temperature trend that this equation calculates is down.

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