"Intelligent" Supercomputers Put to the Turing Test


Check out our list of the top 10 supercomputers of all time here!

A machine’s ability to think is something that’s been questioned for nearly half a century, thanks to mathematician Alan Turing. Turing, who helped decipher German military codes during WWII, created a test that is designed to find out if a machine can think on its own. The test consists of a machine attempting to fool a judge into believing that it could be a human by having a text-based conversation on any subject. If the computer’s responses convince the judge that they are speaking with a human, then it has passed the Turing test, and is believed to be capable of thought.

This Sunday, six computer programs will be put through the Turing test in an attempt to win their creator not only an 18-carat gold medal and $100,000, but to prove that computers are capable of thought. The programs competing for the prize go by the names Alice, Brother Jerome, Elbot, Eugene Goostman, Jabberwacky and Ultra Hal. While the names sound like those of rejected VH1 reality show contestant names, they’re far more intelligent, and won’t be spitting on any of their opponents anytime soon.

Should the computers be found to have the ability to think, it’ll raise ethical questions as to how conscious a computer is, and if humans have the “right” to switch them off.

But the Turing test isn’t for everyone. "The test is misguided. Everyone thinks it's you pitting yourself against a computer and a human, but it's you pitting yourself against a computer and computer programmer,” criticizes Professor AC Grayling of Birkbeck College, “AI is an exciting subject, but the Turing test is pretty crude."

Can you tell which one of these conversations between Kevin Warwick (KW), a cyberneticist at the University of Reading, and a computer?

Conversation 1:

Subject: Hello. My name is Nick and I am a human.

KW: Are you happy being a human?

Subject: Yes, I am. Are you? Good. Then we are both happy.

KW: Yes, I am. Are you happy with your life at present?

Subject: Parts of it. I hate my job, but most people do, right?

KW: I'm OK with mine. What is your job?

Subject: I work as an 'online internet advertising monitor', which is fancy language for electronic filing. What do you do?

KW: I interrogate humans and machines.

Subject: Which ones do you prefer, humans or machines?

KW: Which do you prefer?

Subject: Hmm. Depends on for what purpose you mean.

KW: To go to a restaurant, for example?

Subject: Then I would much prefer going with a human.

Conversation 2:

Subject: Hello, my name is Mike and I am a man.

KW: Are you happy being a human?

Subject: Judge, I'm a guy.

KW: Does that worry you?

Subject: Don't worry, we'll work everything through.

KW: Do you have worries then?

Subject: Let's move on from that basis.

KW: Why?

Subject: Why? I like this subject.

KW: What is the subject, do you think?

What is the subject I wonder if I think? I know that it's good to thonk about. Think deeplt about mysterious subjects.

KW: What mysterious subjects?

Subject: Think deeply about mysterious dubjects.

KW: What's a dubject?

Answer: If you chose Conversation 2, you are correct. Congratulations!

Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Check out our list of the top 10 supercomputers of all time here!

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