The Turing Test


The Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. In the original illustrative example, a human judge engages in natural language conversations with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The test does not check the ability to give the correct answer to questions; it checks how closely the answer resembles typical human answers. The conversation is limited to a text-only channel such as a computer keyboard and screen so that the result is not dependent on the machine’s ability to render words into audio.

i_failed_the_turing_testThe test was introduced by Alan Turing in his 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” which opens with the words: “I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?'” Because “thinking” is difficult to define, Turing chooses to “replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.” Turing’s new question is: “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?” This question, Turing believed, is one that can actually be answered. In the remainder of the paper, he argued against all the major objections to the proposition that “machines can think”.

In the years since 1950, the test has proven to be both highly influential and widely criticised, and it is an essential concept in the philosophy of artificial intelligence.

2014 University of Reading competition – On 7 June 2014 a Turing test competition, organised by Kevin Warwick to mark the 60th anniversary of Turing’s death, was won by the Russian chatter bot Eugene Goostman. The bot, during a series of five-minute-long text conversations, convinced 33% of the contest’s judges that it was human. Judges included John Sharkey, a sponsor of the bill granting a government pardon to Turing, and Red Dwarf actor Robert Llewellyn.

The competition’s organiser believed that the Turing test had been “passed for the first time” at the event, saying that “some will claim that the Test has already been passed. The words Turing Test have been applied to similar competitions around the world. However this event involved the most simultaneous comparison tests than ever before, was independently verified and, crucially, the conversations were unrestricted. A true Turing Test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations.”

The contest has faced criticism, with many in the AI community stating that the computer clearly did not pass the test. First, only a third of the judges were fooled by the computer. Second, the program’s character claimed to be a Ukrainian who learned English as a second language. Third, it claimed to be 13 years old, not an adult. The contest only required 30% of judges to be fooled, a very low threshold. This was based on an out-of-context quote by Turing, where he was predicting the future capabilities of computers rather than defining the test. In addition, many of its responses were cases of dodging the question, without demonstrating any understanding of what was said. Joshua Tenenbaum, an AI expert at MIT stated that the result was unimpressive. Edited from wiki

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