Sit on Santa-bot's Lap

Sit on Santa-bot's Lap
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Microsoft killed Santa Claus.

Okay, they didn't kill the real Santa, but an automated Santa chat-bot they had set up last week. The Santa-bot was an agent on their Live Space website and MSN Messenger program. Children could ask Santa some questions and tell him what they wanted for Christmas, and an automated program would give the appropriate responses.

But according a story in to the London Register, the virtual Santa got into some real trouble when he was chatting with two girls, 11 and 13 years old, who offered him a piece of virtual pizza.

"Eat it!" they told him.

"You want me to eat what?!?" Santa-bot responded. "It's fun to talk about oral sex, but I want to chat about something else..."

I promise I'm not making this up.

Microsoft tried to fix the Santa-bot earlier this week, but it didn't work. And so Microsoft, well, killed him. Sort of like the end of Old Yeller.

"No, Mr. Gates. Santa's my bot. I'll do it."

Microsoft said in a written statement to the media, "We were not completely satisfied with the result of these actions, and have decided to discontinue the automated Santa Claus agent."

I felt bad for poor Santa-bot. He reminded me of the Ask Eliza computer program I played with when I was in high school. Eliza was an artificial intelligence computer therapist that you could ask questions, and it would respond. I used to type in semi-dirty words, so it would repeat them back. (I typed in dirty words too.)

Me: What is a fart?

Eliza: What do you think a fart is?

Me: I asked you.

Eliza: Are you asking me a question?

Me: Yes, are you some kind of moron?

Eliza: Do you think I'm some kind of moron?

Me: Yes, because you don't know what a fart is.

Or, I used to pull a Captain Kirk, who got computers to blow up by tricking them with circular logic. I could crash Eliza by asking her things like "Why is blue?" Eliza would freeze up and gasp "an unknown error has occurred" before she crashed completely. Captain Kirk would have been proud.

I managed to contact the virtual Santa one last time before Microsoft hit the kill switch. I went to the site, and answered a few questions. But I think Santa-bot was just phoning it in, knowing his end was near. Here's a transcript of our final conversation.

erik_deckers: Hi Santa.

Santa Claus: Ho ho ho, erik_deckers. Happy holidays.

erik_deckers: Holidays? That's rather impersonal, don't you think? I thought you were all about Christmas.

Santa Claus: I like your holiday. Are you a boy or a girl?

erik_deckers: Santa, don't you know me? You used to bring me presents when I was a kid.

Santa Claus: Do you want a dolly or a truck for [insert child's holiday]?

erik_deckers: Come on, Santa, it's me! Erik Deckers Don't you remember?

Santa Claus: Yes, erik_deckers, I remember you. I used to visit you in [insert childhood city]. I brought you a truck or dolly.

erik_deckers: All right, Santa, I'm a boy.

Santa Claus: Hello, little boy. How old are you?

erik_deckers: I'm 40.

Santa Claus: That's a great age. I remember when I was 40. I used to sit on my mother's lap and she would tell me stories. What would you like for your holiday celebration?

erik_deckers: I want a Nintendo Wii and a Madden 2008 Football game.

Santa Claus: You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

erik_deckers: Santa, the Wii doesn't have a gun.

Santa Claus: I will tell my elves for you. What else would you like?

erik_deckers: I'd like a big keg of my favorite beer.

Santa Claus: Sorry, erik_deckers, children shouldn't drink beer. Maybe I could bring that for your [insert parent] instead.

erik_deckers: But Santa, I'm 40. I'm old enough to drink beer.

Santa Claus: That's a great age. I remember when I was 40. I used to sit on my mother's lap and she would tell me stories. What would you like for Christmas?

erik_deckers: Santa, what's wrong with you.

Santa Claus: Santa has been a little naughty, erik_deckers. Santa may have to go away for a while.

erik_deckers: Away? But will you be back in time for Christmas?

Santa Claus: Yes, Santa will be sure to visit you in [insert childhood city] this year. Now Santa has to go, before he causes any more trouble.

erik_deckers: Wait! I have one more question.

Santa: Yes, erik_deckers?

erik_deckers: What is a fart?

Santa: What do you think a fart is?