This Is Not An Argument Bot

While in-person arguments are getting harder to come by these days, we’ll always have the internet (hopefully). So what can you do to stay on your game in a time when a little levity is lauded? Build an argument bot and battle wits with the best — a stern-faced John Cleese!

This latest offering from [8 Bits And A Byte] refers to a Monty Python sketch featuring an argument service — an office with a receptionist who will take your money and send you down the hall for a healthy and heated discussion. If you’ve never gone on a Monty Python binge, well, it’s probably as good a time as any.

Electronics-wise, the argument bot is a pretty simple build. A Raspberry Pi B+ outfitted with a Google AIY hat listens to your side of things and decides which bones to pick. Your obviously misguided statements are then matched with DialogFlow intents, and dissent is sent back through the speaker. Meanwhile, Mr. Cleese’s jaw moves up and down on a printed and servo-driven linear actuator while he maintains a stiff upper lip. Before you go off on that Python binge, check out the build video after the break.

Have you seen what can happen two robots argue? ‘Tis but a scratch.

40 thoughts on “This Is Not An Argument Bot

  1. The irony of Monty Python: nobody really understands their jokes any longer since they’re written in the cultural context of the 70’s Great Britain – except those who lived through that time, and most of them don’t find it funny. This was pre Thatcher, so basically all millenials don’t understand what they’re on about. They just a) laugh at the trout slapping dance and silly faces, b) think they find it funny because other people don’t get it. In other words, either you’re an idiot or a hipster.

    How’s that for an argument?

    Also in the news: you’re so old that kids these days don’t understand the cultural refereces/jokes in Hot Shots or any of the movies with Frank Drebin as a character. Now imagine what people in other countries feel like when they watch these movies completely outside of your cultural context.

    1. Oh please “Life of Brian” is still funny as hell even if you don’t have 70s UK background, I kid from commie country that saw both communism its fall and now EU times enjoyed Monty Python since erly 90ties first translated then once i learned english enough rediscovered it again. Of course there are moments in show that make me “huh?” but generally it can be understood even without knowing language.

      1. I wasn’t talking about the movies.

        It’s interesting to think about what people think they understand about the Pythons. Of course it might be funny because you’ve just inserted your own jokes.

        1. I didn’t inserted my jokes – i clearly wrote i watched it both translated and later once i knew english fluent enough in original, i’m at point where i think in three languages and trying to add another i wont pretend im briliant or i know culture but i don’t translate it in my head anymore its just there in raw form like my native language.

          1. You wouldn’t know that you didn’t. That’s the point – whether the translation, or your own understanding carries the same point across is entirely unknown. You might find it funny for entirely different reasons.

          2. > its just there in raw form like my native language

            Language is culture. If you don’t share the culture, you don’t really share the same language – just the words.

      1. The problem with that Star Trek episode is that they’d need ordinary language to communicate the idioms and concepts to any newborn people who aren’t yet familiar with the stories, yet somehow lack the use of it.

        The whole concept is like speaking in Cockney rhyming slang without understanding the individual words. Barber Billy.

        1. I would say a newborn would learn a phrase exactly the same way a newborn learns “words”. They’re all just phonetic sounds and hearing the sounds repeated in different contexts is how a newborn learns communications. Having a multisyllabic phrase is no different than a multisyllabic phrase, yes?

          1. In that case, they’re doing ordinary language. Like I would point to a flower and say “flower”. You still have to construct ordinary language in order to tell a story about flowers, so you can then say “Flower in the sunset” to refer to a particular story as an allegory.

            They try to dodge that by saying that the children learn the language through re-enacting the stories, but then their entire language is just symbols that refer to particular stories – like a language consisting entirely of nouns. There’s no reason why they’d have any phrases like “X and Y at Z”, or “X with arms open”, because they wouldn’t use syntax like that.

          2. If they could use phrases like “X with arms open”, where X could vary, then “…with arms open” would have to refer to some concept in itself, and therefore it would be ordinary language instead of allegory.

            In order to understand that many different people can have “their arms open”, you need to understand what “arms” and “open” means both in grammatical and syntactical sense – you need them to directly refer to something, which means their language isn’t just allegory – they are capable of speaking in direct terms.

            Yet in the Star Trek episode, they somehow can’t. That’s why it was a silly episode.

    2. When the Python TV series was made, we were closer in time to WWII and the great depression than we now are to when these shows were made.

      For reasons, the era is much less likely to be studied in depth (in the US, the only thing touched upon is Tricky-Dick) so the lack of cultural reference is no surprise. The same is true of much early “Back When It Was Funny”(tm) Saturday Night Live.

      Much of the more subtle humour doesn’t translate without context, but much does. And, like many films from the 1930’s and 1940’s, a little study of the era opens a lot of the subtlety.

      Or, for no thought required humour, see Benny Hill. Often amusing, rarely memorable.

      1. Rowan and Martin’s laugh in used to be referred to as classically hilarious. I tried a few episodes, I recognised I think much of the topical stuff, but the rest seemed like kids show schtick. I guess though we forget over time, that a lot of comedy is more funny when it’s fresh, takes a new approach and is maybe a little shocking, which if successful, many people copy, and then grows stale by repetition.

        Though some of it just needs more life experience and cultural assimilation that you get over the years. There are some noticeably “adult” jokes back in Bugs Bunny, there’s quite a few in recent Pixar films and you’re belly laughing while the kids are going “What??”. People who were jusrt “old enough” to be allowed to watch South Park and Family Guy who now regard it snarkily as “kids stuff” from their grand old age of 25, I can tell you, you didn’t get half of it, watch it again in a few years.

      1. The Beeb wasn’t supposed to get overtly political, but there was a lot of zeitgeist-y cultural context in it, the overthrow of the stiff upper lip establishment begun in the 60s etc.

  2. Yes, but can it actually argue? An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition – it isn’t just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

  3. Suggestion for improvement: Make “mouth closed” the default and final go-ot-position. Would look much more “realistic” (if that makes sense in this context) and less “I could do it properly but it’s not important”-youtube-ish.

    1. I suspect that is because gravity at the earth’s surface generally tends to work in the direction known in common experience as “downwards” So it could probably use a light spring for bias to do that. (Meaning that when off it probably slowly sinks to the down position, so is selected as default so the device knows where it is.)

  4. How did we get this far in the comments with nobody noticing that Cleese is dressed for the “Ministry of Silly Walks Sketch”? He doesn’t wear the bowler in the “Argument Sketch”.

  5. Did anyone here ever play the Monty Python game on Amiga? I first played it as a kid and never really got it, but going back to it as an adult it’s quite a masterpiece.

    The collectibles are various food items, mostly Spam, which when you reach the end of the level are counted out individually by Terry Jones’ character. This is then followed by a brief argument (literally just a. “no it isn’t” or “yes it is” then a “thank you!”). You’ll sometimes get interludes in between sections of levels of things like how to spot different trees.

    I wouldn’t say the gameplay was anything amazing, but they definitely captured the randomness of the series, and used an art style similar to Terry Gilliam’s.

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