Artist Lynn Hershman Leeson Records the Advance of Our Robot Overlords
Exhibition Review
Jul 2, 2015
New Scientist
Joanna Kavenna

Halfway through an exhibition of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s work at Modern Art Oxford in the UK, I stopped to talk to Agent Ruby (1998-2002), a text-based web agent whose “consciousness” is shaped by and reflective of encounters and adventures that she has with her users. She is supposed to become more intelligent as she speaks to you. If this is the case, then I can only blame myself for our stalled interaction.

“What is your favourite novel?” I asked her.
“I don’t have a favourite novel. My favourite food is pattern.”
“What is your favourite book?”
“The best book I read recently is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Have you read it?”
“Yes. Do you like Philip K. Dick in general?”
“I don’t know if I like Philip K. Dick in general. I like to cuddle.”

Later, Ruby told me: “Did you know that you can download your own chat robot and create your own robot personality?”

Why would I do that? I wondered…