A computer programme masquerading as a 13-year-old Ukranian boy has become the first computer ever to pass the Turing Test, managing to convince humans that it is actually a person as opposed to the robot that it is. Whilst many have always thought that artificial intelligence would one day reach the level of intelligence and intellect possessed by humans, this is the first real step that we are seeing towards this goal.
The winning application, Eugene Goostman, was able to convince 33% of the judges that it was actually a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine. The application has been developed in such a way as to mimic the intelligence that a child of the programme’s purported background is likely to possess, with Vladimir Veselov, one of the creators of the application, explaining that their “main idea was that he can claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn’t know everything.”
An important takeaway from this milestone is to understand how this could impact the future development of nearly all aspects of technology. If a computer is now able to communicate with a human so convincingly that the person on the other end doesn’t cotton on to the fact that they are talking to a machine, then this could pose a serious problem for online security in the future. This could open the door to scammers and hackers developing tools that coax end-users into handing over personal details or having in-depth conversations that could then be used for the purpose of blackmail; people could end up having a conversation with someone they believe they can trust, but that person could just be an application sitting on a server anywhere in the world.
The Turing Test was originally developed by Alan Turing, the famous Government computer scientist who is most well known for his efforts in developing the Enigma code-breaking machine during World War 2. Turing devised the test based around a simple yet complex question; “can machines do what we (as thinking entities) can do?” Although the test has faced widespread criticism with many denouncing for only assessing the ‘appearance of intelligence’, the announcement that a computer has been able to pass the test for the first time is certainly an accomplishment. Since being developed in the 1950s, the Turing Test has gone on to become one of the main foundations of the philosophy of artificial intelligence.
In order to perform the test, an interrogator is placed in front of a computer. The interrogator is then tasked with having conversations with humans and machines through an interface. The use of the interface ensures that the interrogator doesn’t have a clue as to whether they are actually communicating with a machine or a human. The interrogator then has to work out whether each entity they are having a conversation with is human or of artificial intelligence. It is said that the Turing Test has been passed when an interrogator is unable to differentiate between a machine and a human.