Turing Test Emails?

Recently I got an email from a guy who wanted to find out information about OU’s PhD program. I don’t know why he emailed me, but his message seemed generic enough that he might have sent it to a lot of Ohio U grads (or current students). Here is his first message:

Francis F. Lukhele sent you the following message from your website:

I am an international student from Swaziland (Southern Africa). This May I obtained my M.A. in English here in Texas.I am planning to do my English Ph.D at Ohio University at Athens. I was looking at the graduate study brochure of English at OUA. Is it true that international students are generally not considered for financial assistantships/graduate assistantships? My, that would kill my dream. Looking foward to hearing from you.

It seemed harmless enough. Aside from a few small quirks, it was intelligible enough, especially for a native of Swaziland who probably learned English in school (and a formal, British kind of English, I would guess). So I replied:

I know of two international students in the Ohio U English program, one from England and one from Canada. Both were able to receive graduate assistantships. I don’t know how they did so, but I don’t think it was very complex. You should contact Josie Bloomfield, who is the graduate student advisor: Also, there are two professors from Africa: Evan Mwangi from Kenya and Zakes Mda from South Africa. I realize that Africa is a large continent with many countries, but I believe that the English department at Ohio is probably open to international students. Good luck to you.

I thought that would be the end of him, but it wasn’t. Soon he sent me his reply, which is what got me thinking about the Turing Test. Maybe some computer is messing with me, trying to make me think it’s a real human being?

Thank you for your speedy response to my inquiry. I have just sent Dr. Bloomfield a message as you advised. I am encouraged by your informing that Ohio University at Athens Eng. Ph.D has two graduate assistants. And thank you for letting me know you have two professors from Africa. Actually I saw their names on the fuculty listing on line and tried to find their contact particulars but simply couldn’t. Can I ask you please help get in touch with these two professors, Evan Mwangi and Zakes Mda? I would really appreciate that. And thank you once more.

First off, anybody can understand from my message that there are not simply two graduate assistants. And if this person really saw the professors’ information online, he can’t possibly have missed their contact information. Also, doesn’t the sentence structure seem like a computer wrote it? I’m posting here, now, so that if it turns out this is a computer emailing me, there’s proof that I didn’t believe it was human. I’m going to email this guy back to see what happens next.

PatrickObservations06/27/05 6 comments


Dan • 06/28/05 12:51 AM:

If it’s a computer then it sure as heck is better than Intellibuddy!

Dad • 07/13/05 7:11 PM:

Also, it’s a good thing he (it?) isn’t from Nigeria, with $10 million he wants to give you a percentage of for helping him smuggle it out of the country by making a small payment of $3000 to bribe officials. Maybe he (it) is really a computer science major whose project is to write a computer program that could be accepted into a PhD program in English.

Reminds me of an art course Jim Hayden took at ND in which the professor promised an A to any student who could design a stamp that could fool the post office into sending him a letter. Jim did it, but didn’t get the A. What a bummer.

Dad • 08/09/06 8:30 PM:

Patrick, you said you were going to email the guy back and see what happens. Did you ever do that? What happened? It’s been over a year now.

Patrick • 08/10/06 10:41 AM:

Whoa. I was just rereading this entry yesterday, too! There’s another entry on Intellibuddy, which was what I was really looking for. Intellibuddy seems to be gone from the Internet now. I hope it comes back soon. By the way, of the three interviews reproduced in the Intellibuddy thread, mine is the funniest.

Dad • 03/04/08 10:37 PM:

Today I got one of those spam viagra emails and the following words were included:

chemicals to seep through my fractured body.were chained to their chairs or they would have killed me instantly.cell door opened again. A dozen guns were pointed at me as a guard Do you want to know?ordered. He is the ,one who knows what the device can do

I gotta ‘mit, these words raise some interesting images. I mean, I’m glad they were chained to their chairs, but what was I doing there? Was I also chained to a chair, chemicals seeping through my fractured body? I think maybe he’s not the only one who knows what the device can do! Although you have to be impressed with a guy who goes by the name of “the.”

Imagine Moses seeing the burning bush and hearing it say, “I am who am.”

“You are who are?”

At that moment, the bush immediately to his left says, “I am The.”

Patrick • 03/04/08 11:52 PM:

I’ve laughed out loud twice reading your comment, Dad. Nice.

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