Adam Mann in Wired (Alan M Turing and colleagues working on the Ferranti Mark I Computer in 1951. Photo: SSPL/Getty Images):
Over the weekend, a group of programmers claimed they built a program that passed the famous Turing Test, in which a computer tries to trick judges into believing that it is a human. According to news reports,this is a historic accomplishment. But is it really? And what does it mean for artificial intelligence?
The Turing Test has long been held as a landmark in machine learning. Its creator, British computer scientist Alan Turing, thought it would represent a point when computers would have brains nearly as capable as our own. But the value of the Turing Test in modern day computer science is questionable. And the actual accomplishments of the test-winning chatbot are not all that impressive.
The Turing Test 2014 competition was organized to mark the 60th anniversary of Turing’s death and included several celebrity judges, including actor Robert Llewellyn of the British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. The winner was a program named Eugene Goostman, which managed to convince 10 out of 30 judges that it was a real boy. Goostman is the work of computer engineering team led by Russian Vladimir Veselov and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko.
The program had a few built-in advantages, such as the fact that he was claimed to be a 13-year-old non-native English speaker from Ukraine. It also only tricked the judges about 30 percent of the time (an F minus, or so). For many artificial intelligence experts, this is less than exciting.