No matter how well-prepared computer programs had arrived for the Turing test for artificial intelligence, they left with a similar fate, failure. The drought, however, came to an end with Eugene Goostman, a supercomputer. Duping just enough judges into believing that they were in a conversation with a 13-year-old boy rather than a computer program, a machine was finally able to pass the 65-year-old iconic test at an event organized at the Royal Society in London.
A historic milestone in artificial intelligence
Developed by the Russian born Vladimir Veselov and Ukrainian born Eugene Demchenko, Eugene, along with five other programs, was out to accomplish something that had never been accomplished before. In order to pass the Turing test, the program needed to be convincing enough to dupe at least 30 percent of the people during the five-minute keyboard conversations. This was not going to be an easy task as the judges, which included Robert Llewellyn and Lord Sharkey among others, were hardly expected to take it easy. After a fair amount of testing and questioning, it was finally declared that Eugene had done what so many programs had failed to do in the past. It got past the minimum threshold for clearing the test by convincing 33 percent of the judges that they were talking to an actual teenager. Professor Kevin Warwick, a Visiting Professor at the University of Reading and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at Coventry University, acknowledged the fact that the world may not be hearing it for the first time that the Turing test had been cleared, but the validity of tests and accomplishments hardly measured up against the accomplishment of Eugene as it wasn’t dealing with predefined topics or questions, as has been the case in other tests.
A program with a personality
Veselov admitted that the team working on Eugene wanted to give it a certain personality. While the program was created in 2001, a lot of time and effort was put into giving it a believable personality and character. The idea was to make the computer program act like it knew everything even though it didn’t, an attitude typical of teenagers. Now that the competition was done with, the co-creator of Eugene conceded that they’re going to make the program smarter heading into the future. Veselov also expressed hope that the success of Eugene would boost interest in artificial intelligence and chatbots.
Implications of smarter machines
While the result of Turing Test 2014 was hailed as a historic milestone in computing history, Kevin Warwick, a visiting professor at the University of Reading and deputy vice-chancellor for research at Coventry University, cautioned that the growing intelligence of computers was a wake-up call to cybercrime. He added that the Turing test is a vital tool to combat this threat. Warwick believes that, “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.”
To some, Eugene may be nothing more than an upgraded version of Eliza, one of the earliest chatbots that many of us came across over a decade ago. Other may not just find its achievement remarkable, but may also be inspired to pass the Turing test with an even better score. There are times when one cannot help but wonder if the machines would eventually surpass the intellect of human brain at some point. Are we heading towards a future where we’ll find ourselves competing against Eugene and its ilk for jobs? Maybe we won’t have to wait for too long to find out.