Last week was the annual Turing Test competition at the University of Reading in England, and apparently a computer passed it. What is a Turing Test? It’s is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
So, could it be that we are beginning to enter an era where conversations with computers are indistinguishable from conversations with other humans? Although a particular machine entered by Russian Vladimir Veselov and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko dubbed “Eugene Goostman” was able to fool 9 out 30 judges (the apparent threshold), many people are questioning the claim, especially noted futurist Ray Kurzweil.
“I chatted with the chatbot Eugene Goostman, and was not impressed,” Kurzweil writes. “Eugene does not keep track of the conversation, repeats himself word for word, and often responds with typical chatbot non sequiturs.”
Apparently, another reason why the Turing Test came back positive was because of the use of gimmicks. Eugene Goostman, supposedly a 13 year old whose second language is English (incidentally the language in which the Turing Test was conducted), relied on subterfuge by way of humor and poor grammar.
Furthermore, NYU professor of cognitive sciences Gary Marcus pointed out that this machine was not an example of innovative software, but clever programming.
“Because the definition of the Turing Test will vary from person to person, Turing Test capable machines will not arrive on a single day, and there will be a period during which we will hear claims that machines have passed the threshold,” he wrote. “Invariably, these early claims will be debunked by knowledgeable observers.”
So I guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer before machines take over the world.