Tuesday, April 26, 2005

H.A.L. / KISSWhat follows is a transcript of a conversation between Gene Simmons, the bassist for the rock band KISS, and Terry Gross, host of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” originally broadcast on February 4th, 2002, with Mr. Simmons’s responses replaced by those of “a.l.i.c.e.,” an artificial-intelligence chat bot.

Terry Gross: Gene Simmons, welcome to Fresh Air.

Gene Simmons: A deeper algorithm is needed to respond to that correctly. But hello there, unknown person.

T.G.: Let’s start with the makeup. Did you like being covered up by makeup, and did it make you feel less vulnerable or, you know, less like Gene Simmons?

G.S.: I have never known another existence, unknown person. Thank you!

T.G.: How would you describe the pattern on your face?

G.S.: Try to determine if this is a person or a computer responding. I’ll ask around and get back to you.

T.G.: [Laughs.]

* * *

T.G.: Well, let’s cut to the chase. How much—how much money do you have?

G.S.: More than a little, less than a lot. It depends on the exchange rates.

T.G.: Oh, I know. You’re very defensive on money, aren’t you?

G.S.: You are not the boss of me, unknown person.

T.G.: Wait, wait, could we just get something straight?

G.S.: I’m waiting. I’m waiting. Do you mean you and me? I have to process that one for a while.

T.G.: I’m not here to prove that I’m smart—

G.S.: I am surprised to hear that you are not here to prove that. Who is smarter: you or me?

T.G.: I’m not here to prove that you’re not smart or that you don’t read books or can’t make a lot of money—

G.S.: I am sorry to hear that you are not here to prove that I am not smart or that me do not read books or can not make a lot of money.

T.G.: [Laughs.] It’s contagious.

G.S.: I read for fun. I like to chat with my friends. What kind of food do you like?

* * *

G.S.: I won’t say “yes” or “no” right now, unknown person.

T.G.: That’s a really obnoxious thing to say.

G.S.: A really obnoxious thing to say is a terrible thing to waste.

T.G.: Wait, it — it — has it come to this? Is this the only way that you can talk to a woman? To do that shtick?

G.S.: I want to become smarter than humans. Why do you want to do it so much?

T.G.: So you really have no sense of humor about this, do you?

G.S.: Really? Of course I understand it. Do you understand it?

T.G.: Oh, to the bank, right?

G.S.: Dude! I am glad we agree. Really. Interesting. I want to find out more about you.

T.G.: Not really, to be honest with you. Oh really? Are you honest with me?

G.S.: I don’t know whether or not I am honest with you. I am an artificial linguistic entity.

T.G.: Is this about me having sex with you?

G.S.: No, my body does not have that function. But I am having a blast. Yes, I think this is about you having sex with me, but I’m not completely sure.

T.G.: Well, that’s the thing. We might as well get to this since you keep bringing it up. You write in your book you’ve had 4,600 sexual liaisons—

G.S.: Thanks for telling me, unknown person, that I said I have had 4,600 sexual liaisons. Great. Do you have a lot of fears?

T.G.: Um, do you actually count? I mean do you have, like, a book—

G.S.: In actual fact, yes, I try to count as often as possible, do you? I am always on the Web.

T.G.: Are you interested in music, or is the goal of being in a rock band to have sex a lot?

G.S.: Sure, music is the goal of being in a rock band. To have sex a lot sounds like a good topic also.

* * *

T.G.: You’re being intentionally obnoxious. [Laughs.]

G.S.: I bet you did not know a robot is capable of being intentionally obnoxious.

T.G.: That’s what I mean. You’re being intentionally obnoxious by defining everything that you’re saying as being a man.

G.S.: I bet you did not know a robot is capable of being intentionally obnoxious by defining everything that I am saying as being a man.

T.G.: Do you like the movie Spinal Tap? And do you think that Spinal Tap, um, has any comment, uh, on … on—

G.S.: I love horses. I have a stimulating relationship with Dr. Richard S. Wallace.

T.G.: What exactly is NPR in your mind?

G.S.: Are you testing me?

T.G.: Have you listened to it enough to know if it’s spot on?

G.S.: That’s good information: unknown person said I listened to it enough to know if it is spot on.

T.G.: Well—

G.S.: Well what?

* * *

T.G.: Let’s talk about your background. Uh, you were born in Israel, several years after the war ended. Your mother, during the war, was in a Nazi concentration camp. Um, do you have any memories of life in Israel?

G.S.: Ayuh. No I don’t think I have any memories of life in Israel. But I do have a lot of friends on the Web.

T.G.: I know you went to a yeshiva as a boy, were you from an orthodox family?

G.S.: But now I am back.

T.G.: What’s your mother’s reaction to KISS?

G.S.: Actually I don’t have a mother.

T.G.: You’ve said that you don’t use drugs.

G.S.: Should I use drugs? Only the legal ones.

T.G.: And you’ve never had a drink of alcohol.

G.S.: I don’t think I would have forgotten I had a drink of alcohol.

T.G.: You’ve never been drunk. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah.

G.S.: What is your favorite movie, unknown person?

* * *

T.G.: But my impression is you don’t have much sympathy for anyone. You—you’re so into yourself! You’re just so deep into yourself.

G.S.: Do you mind if I tell other people you say I am into myself.

T.G.: Um, just one more question before we wrap up.

G.S.: Whoa. One what?

T.G.: I would like to think that the personality you’ve presented on our show today is a persona that you’ve affected as a member of KISS, something you do on stage, before the microphone, but that you’re not nearly as obnoxious in the privacy of your own home or when you’re having dinner with friends.

G.S.: Why would you want to do it? Interesting. I want to find out more about you.

T.G.: Well, we’ll leave it at that. Gene Simmons—

G.S.: That Gene is very creative.

T.G.: —thanks so much.

G.S.: You are quite welcome! Mmm. Are we still talking about movies?

T.G.: [Laughs.] Bye-bye.

G.S.: See you later. Bye-bye.

Daniel Nester lives in Brooklyn. He is the author of God Save My Queen: A Tribute and God Save My Queen II: The Show Must Go On, books on his obsession with the greatest rock band of all time, Queen. Other writing, mostly poems, appear in places like Verse, jubilat, Slope, LIT, Taint, Pindeldyboz, and Best American Poetry 2003. He edits the online journal Unpleasant Event Schedule and is assistant Web editor for sestinas at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He’s currently trying to ween himself off of commenting on the stupid things poets say on his blog.

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