For two years Carnegie Mellon artificial intelligence researcher Roxanne Kowalski conducted a secret, torrid online affair with “Humberto,” believing he was an advanced bot created by North Korean hackers interested in stealing her research. Her dream fell apart on Tuesday when she discovered her online lover was C.D. Bales, a co-worker with whom she had collaborated for 18 months.
“I love Roxanne,” said Bales. “I have breathed her in, and I am suffocating.”
Bales went to great lengths to convince Kowalski he was a computer, continually failing reverse Turing tests she embedded in their conversations. On a whim, Bales passed a CAPTCHA test posed by Kowalski. Seconds later Kowalski caught Bales standing behind her holding a bouquet of flowers.
“I went from the perfect bot boyfriend to a very fleshy and insufficient human,” Kowalski said. Sociologists say Kowalski’s preference for computer companionship is a growing trend, especially among women with advanced degrees who grew up watching the Sailor Moon TV show.