Tests performed today at the Royal Society in London have resulted in a computer convincing a human for the first time ever that it is also a living human. This means it is now the first ever standalone computer program to pass the infamous Turing Test. Five machines were tested to see if they could persuade a user in general conversation that they were human and one program, named "Eugene Goostman", successfully passed.
Devised by one of the first ever computer developers, Alan Turing, the test is designed to highlight machines that are capable of operating with levels of intelligence currently found solely in humans.
Turing said that if a human operator thinks that they are in communication with another human whilst actually speaking to a computer then that computer must be thinking and capable of performing equally as well as humans. In other words, the behaviour of the computer must be indistinguishable from that of a human completing the same task.
Since its conception in 1950, the rules of the test have remained the same. The computer simply has to persuade the human user that it is alive by engaging in a text-based conversation. If 30% of the present judging users agree that they feel they are talking to a human, the machine passes.
Today, the program Eugene Goostman achieved 33% success and so has been catapulted into the history books as the first ever software package to pass the Turing Test. Previously, only bots in games had passed the test rather than standalone programs.
As reported by the Telegraph, the program was written by Russian Vladimir Veselov, who now lives in the US, and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko who now lives in Russia. The program aims to be a 13-year old schoolboy and you can actually talk to "Eugene" online at "his" website. Veselov responded to the news by saying
""Its a remarkable achievement for us and we hope it boosts interest in artificial intelligence and chatbots.""
Many are skeptical of the possible consequences of machines gaining human levels of intelligence, however, citing the fantasies shown by films such as the Terminator series as possible results of machines pondering ways to gain control of us; experts argue over whether this is actually possible, but anything with increased intelligence could be thought to think in the same way, and so want dominion.
Alan Turing died in 1954 in an apparent suicide resulting from cyanide poisoning. He had been chemically castrated after his 1952 conviction of practicing homosexuality, then condoned almost universally.
After a lengthy campaign supported by many, the UK awarded Turing a posthumous Royal Pardon last December as a tribute to the great contributions he made to world computer science, and his efforts during World War II at Bletchley Park to decode messages sent from German Enigma machines using the Colossus computer.
Todays events are likely to significantly shake up the world of artificial computer-controlled intelligence. By any ones books, knowing that another entity can now exhibit intelligent behaviour indistinguishable from that of human, is certainly something interesting to consider. At least that entity can still be switched off - for now...