Turing Test 2014 marks historic milestone in artificial intelligence

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Turing Test 2014 marks historic milestone in artificial intelligence

Warwick Ashford

A computer program has made history by becoming the first to pass the artificial intelligence test set in the 1950s by mathematician, codebreaker and computer science pioneer Alan Turing.

Turing (pictured) was instrumental in cracking Germany's Enigma code during World War II and originated the concept of a “universal machine” that could act and think like a human.

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The software passed the test at the weekend by convincing a third of judges they were having a text conversation with a 13-year-old boy called Eugene Goostman.

Organised by the University of Reading, in collaboration with the EU-funded RoboLaw organisation, and hosted by the Royal Society in London, the Turing Test 2014 tested five pieces of software.

But “Eugene” was the only one mistaken for a human more than 30% of the time during a series of five minute keyboard conversations.

The winning software was developed in Russia by Vladimir Veselov, who now lives in the US, and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko, who lives in Russia.

“This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting,” said Kevin Warwick, a visiting professor at the University of Reading and deputy vice-chancellor for research at Coventry University.

"Some will claim that the [Turing] Test has already been passed. The words Turing Test have been applied to similar competitions around the world.

“However this event involved the most simultaneous comparison tests than ever before, was independently verified and, crucially, the conversations were unrestricted.

“A true Turing Test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations. We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing's Test was passed for the first time on Saturday,” he said.

Warwick said having a computer with such artificial intelligence had "implications for society" and would serve as a "wake-up call to cyber crime".

Warwick said the Turing Test is a vital tool for combating the threat of cyber crime. “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,” he said.

Veselov and Demchenko have been working on “Eugene” since 2001 to develop a character with a believable personality.

“This year we improved the 'dialog controller' which makes the conversation far more human-like when compared to programs that just answer questions,” said Veselov.

“Going forward, we plan to make Eugene smarter and continue working on improving what we refer to as 'conversation logic'," he said.

In 2011, at the Techniche festival in Guwahati, India, an application called Cleverbot took part in a Turing-type test and was perceived to be human by 59.3%, according to the Guardian.

However, because the program draws on a database of real conversations, many disputed whether it was in fact exhibiting true "intelligence".


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