Yesterday, history was made in the computer world - on June 9, 2014, a computer passed one of the industry’s most prestigious milestones for the first time. But it’s not really a big deal.
First, some background: a man named Alan Turing published a paper in 1950 that famously asked, “can machines think?” He proposed an “imitation game” that would test a computer’s ability to show intelligent behavior. The idea grew into a structured test that Turing set up 5 years before his death.
Called the “Turing Test,” the trial examines a computer’s ability to carry a conversation. A panel of judges is asked to engage in a virtual chat; nobody on the panel is sure whether they’re talking to a real person or a computer posing as a person. After the chat is over, everyone on the panel is asked whether they were chatting with a person or a computer. If at least one third of the judges guess that they weren’t talking to a computer, the computer passes the test.
60 years after Alan Turing’s death, a team of programmers has finally passed the test - but they used cheap tactics, like programmers are famous for. The team, led by engineers Vladimir Veselov and Eugene Demchenko, presented their program to a panel of 30 celebrity judges at an event in London. Instead of coding their computer to speak in perfect English, they turned it into a 13-year-old Ukrainian named Eugene Goostman who had trouble speaking English. This language barrier gave the team a huge advantage since computers tend to have trouble forming colloquial language.
Unfortunately, this historic victory isn’t as huge as it may seem. The computer barely received an F, and several critics of the Turing Test think that its standards are too low. In my opinion, the test doesn’t represent that much intrinsically, but it does reflect our amazing progress in the manufacture of computers.
Love it or hate it, computers are getting better at thinking.