A Russian team has created software that has passed the Turing Test and fooled humans into believing they were speaking to another human rather than a computer. Lest anyone starts running for the hills screaming, "The machines are taking over," the computer managed to impersonate a 13-year-old boy named Eugene Goostman successfully at an event organised at London's eminent Royal Society by Reading University, so we are not talking about a sophisticated level of smarts here. Still, it's a start.
The test was created by mathematician and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, who said that a machine had to convince at least 30 percent of the humans who interacted with it that they were conversing with a person. Eugene managed a rate of 33 percent. Although other computing teams have claimed to have passed the Turing Test, one of the contest's organizers said that this was the first time that a computer had succeeded without prior knowledge of either the topics or questions of discussion. So, the end of humanity as we know it, right?
"Of course the Test has implications for society today," said Professor Kevin Warwick of Reading University in a press release. "Having a computer that can trick a human into thinking that someone, or even something, is a person we trust is a wake-up call to cybercrime. The Turing Test is a vital tool for combatting that threat. It is important to understand more fully how online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true... when in fact it is not."
Goostman's comment on how it felt to be human rather than binary should, however, have set alarm bells ringing amongst the judges. "I feel about beating the turing test in quite convenient way. Nothing original," said "Goostman". A genuine teenager's response would have been a jumble of emoticons and txt speak.