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."
Do you think you’ve got what it takes to decipher whether or not you’re talking to a computer? Test your mental mettle after the jump.
Those expecting Mozilla to release its open-source email client Thunderbird 3.0 in Beta 1 form will have to wait a little longer than initially thought. Rather than attach the Beta moniker to the updated version, Mozilla instead is dubbing it Alpha 3.
"Calling something a beta is likely to trigger a bunch of extra press attention that we're not yet in a position to deal with," said Dan Mosedale, who works at Mozilla Messaging. "Some number [of] reviews will be inappropriately pre-judging based on its current state. In the best case, this would be a distraction."
Mosedale also cited a lack of landing several milestones (AutoConfig, GloDa with full-text search, STEEL) as another reason why he's more comfortable calling the lastest Thunderbird 3.0 release an Alpha build instead of a Beta.
No matter what you call it, the latest beta/alpha/unfinished release is available now for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Last Friday the world’s largest computing grid was launched in order to help tackle the nearly 15 million gigabytes of data that will be coming out of the Large Hadron Collider every year. 33 countries are already contributing 140 computer centers to the project, but with that much data, they’ll need worldwide assistance.
Here in the U.S. we’ve got 15 universities and three Department of Energy national laboratories contributing their power to the project (and maybe you, if you’ve decided to contribute your spare CPU cycles to the project). And every last bit of that help will be needed, because when the LHC finally gets up to full speed it will produce enough data to fill six CD’s per second.
Once the data has been processed, physicists from around the world will begin searching for he tiny signals that will lead them to discoveries about the nature of the physical universe. And perhaps then, they’ll be able to explain just why they LHC will rock us in the head.
Startup company G.ho.st is crying foul over Microsoft's new ad campaign, but not because the commercials suck. Instead, the company claims Microsoft's ads violate the startup's trademark, specifically the phrases "life without walls," "imagine without walls," and "imagine no walls." G.ho.st. CEO Zvi Schreiber has sent a letter to Steve Ballmer requesting that the phrases in question be removed from Microsoft's product lineup, website, marketing materials, and anywhere else the software giant might be using them.
Michael Marinello, a Microsoft spokesman, did acknowledge that Microsoft had received the letter, but said in an email "the allegation is without merit." Not so says Schreiber, who claims that G.ho.st has been using the phrase "no walls" in conjunction with its G.ho.st Virtual Computer software, which Schreiber describes as an alternative to Windows.
Going for the gusto, Schreiber not only wants Microsoft to stop using the above mentioned phrases, but wants Microsoft to amend existing ads clarifying that it has not licensed G.ho.st's technology or trademark, as well as mentioning that they do not use the same "features or benefits of the G.ho.st Virtual Computer." All this on top of wanting Steve Ballmer and Co. to negotiate a "good faith" license for past use.
Ready for the kicker? Not only does G.ho.st not yet officially own the allegedly trademarked phrases, but according to PC World, the company filed an application for the trademarks on the same day it sent Microsoft the ceast and desist letter.
Can anyone challenge Google's dominance in the search arena? Right now the answer is 'no,' but don't tell that the Ask.com. The search site that started out as a verb (as opposed to Google, whose overwhelming popularity in pop culture forced it to be officially recognized in the English language) has gone back to the drawing board, much like Wile E. Coyote did time and again in vain attempts to catch up to the Road Runner.
Starting today, Ask.com will roll out a completely revamped version of its search engine, which is the first time it has been rebuilt since Jim Safka took over Jim Lanzone's position as chief executive in January (Safka previously held the same position at Match.com).
Ask.com's makeover includes search results from "structured" sources of data. For example look up Cops and you'll find not only the typical bevy of URLs, but also TV listings for when the next episode will air. Search results also come faster than they did before.
But is a faster, smarter search engine enough to propel Ask.com out of its position as the fourth most popular search?
Hear that noise? It's the sound of DirectX 10 (and 10.1) failing to make much of an impact on the PC gaming scene. The slow adoption of DX10 can't be blamed on a lack of hype or anticipation, and gamers might need to prepare themselves for round 2. ATI, stil the only videocard manufacturer to offer DX10.1 compliant silicon, is casting an eye towards 2009 and telling whoever will listen that DirectX 11 is on the horizon.
Currently showing off next-generation technologies at Ceatec, ATI said it expects to launch DX11 GPUs within the next 12-14 months. It's far too early to tell what impact that will having on the gaming community, but on the plus side, DX11 is expected to raise the bar in terms of GPGPU functions and multithreading, as well as bringing support for hardware tessellation for the first time.
ATI also says its on track to release GPUs based on a 40nm manufacturing process, though the company stopped short of offering a specific time frame.
Speculation regarding Amazon's Kindle 2.0 has been spreading since at least July, but it appears we might finally know exactly what the redesigned eBook reader will look like. The spy shots come courtesy of BoyGeniusReport.com, which shows a gadget that is "a little wider and a little longer" than the first generation Kindle.
Assuming the snapshots turn out to be legit, Kindle 2.0 will come with smaller buttons to help avoid inadvertent page turns. The scroll wheel gets whisked away in favor of a joystick, and the new Kindle also eschews its own charger in favor of a miniUSB cable. What you won't find is a touchscreen or an SD card slot, and according to BoyGenius this second run Kindle will use EVDO for downloads.
Thoughts on the new Kindle? Hit the jump and let us know.
Evga, the company best know for its position as a top-tier Nvidia partner, continues to try and build a reputation as the go-to vendor for overclocking enthusiasts. The videocard manufacturer was the first to officially support overclocking its GPUs without invalidating the warranty (only XFX has since followed suit), and Evga's FTW branded motherboards look to live up to the three-letter moniker with all the right marketing bullets.
Adding to the FTW series, and specifically the 790i SLI FTW, Evga has announced the 790i SLI FTW Digital PWM designed for aggressive overclocking. In addition to the usual assortment of high end goodies (1600MHz frontside bus support, DDR3 2000MHz support, SLI certified, PCI-E 2.0), the long-winded FTW Digital PWM edition bumps up the reference design from a 6-phase to an 8-phase design. The board also comes with 100 percent solid state capacitors and ferrite core chokes, both of which purport to offer improved signal-to-noise ratios and ultimately lead to a higher overclocking ceiling.
Overclockers comfortable mucking around with advanced voltage controls will have the ability to disable Vdroop in the "enhanced" BIOS and avoid sagging voltage at higher overclocks. And for those that are more apprehensive when it comes to advanced level tweaks, Evga's BIOS will include several pre-validated voltage settings.
PC World’s Paul McNamara contacted Google last week to see if the cloud computing titan would clarify its use of the word “beta”. Sadly from those who read the response, they clearly intend to continue bending the term to their own use. This on the other hand leads to a great community conversation starter. Currently 22 out of 49 non Google Labs services carry the beta tag, including popular and widely used services such as Gmail and Google Docs. Google’s official response to the question is as follows: "We believe beta has a different meaning when applied to applications on the Web, where people expect continual improvements in a product. On the Web, you don't have to wait for the next version to be on the shelf or an update to become available. Improvements are rolled out as they're developed." If I’m interpreting my corporate double speak correctly, it seems clear that Google intends to continue using the beta tag to represent constantly evolving products. This makes me wonder, is it fair to use such a widely understood version label and turn it into a marketing term? Now it’s your turn to chime in. Do you like Google’s new definition of the beta tag? Or would you prefer they get off the fence and better distinguish new products from the old.
Open Office has been around in one form or another for over nine years now. But the once little known productivity suite known back then as StarOffice has evolved considerably over the years. Today the Sun Microsystems freebee is admittedly a fairly full featured alternative to Microsoft Office. Open Office in fact has become so useful that Maximum PC Editor and Chief Will Smith has admitted its open source charm (and free price tag) has finally won over his home PC for casual word processing. Fans of the platform have another reason to get excited these days with the impending launch of version 3.0. The new version will further improve compatibility when working with Microsoft Office files and will include additional support for the open file format OpenDocument which is to be integrated into Office 2007. For those looking to give version 3 a try, a public beta is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. But for corporate users looking to implement Open Office you should follow the links instead to the version named StarOffice. The retail version will cost you about $69.95, but it includes technical support and intellectual property indemnification. For those keeping track Open Office 2 launched on October 20th 2005 and the latest stable version is 2.4.1 which was released in June.