When Evelyn reads the “experimental new feature” dialogue for “Transparency Mode,” I get the sense that the human face for Eliza’s interface is more true to technology in a way. With the psychotherapy (if you can even call it that), it seems like a trick meant to distract the client from the A.I. backend. (Evelyn’s gig is called being a “proxy,” and “surrogate” would work just as well. Think of the worman who joins Theodore and Samantha to serve as Samantha’s bodily manifestation in Her. Or when Mariette does the same for Joi with K in Blade Runner 2049.) But with a person reading aloud to another—and unable not to read—that the Terms of Service Agreement is available online, it startles me to the fact that a person did write those…those seemingly humanless legal documents. Maya, the client, jokes about closely reading them.

In any case, this inversion of human-vs-computer-sounding speech subverts the motivation behind the historical “Eliza”: the Turing test. Recall Evelyn’s first client, who asked her to break from the script just to reassure him that authentic human-to-human interaction was still possible. Evelyn was led by Eliza to convince them that it was really her speaking, not the Eliza system. Really, the premise behind the Turing test tries to erase the humans involved on all sides of the computer program’s development. It was always a human part of human culture because technology is integral to—constitutive of—both “human” and “culture.”


Eliza. Zachtronics 2019.