23rd Aug 2012
The Turing Test: Artificial Intelligence
For hundreds of years, great minds have mused about artificial intelligence, and at what point artificial becomes real. How can we tell if computer that’s programmed to imitate humans is really intelligent, or if it’s just imitating intelligence? After the success of WWII technology, these questions were raised extensively —and British mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing proposed with a logical, simple solution. He wrote a controversial and provocative paper in 1950, which confidentially asserted that computers would indeed come to rival human intelligence—but the paper’s most famous element is the “Imitation Game”, now better known as the “Turing Test”. The Turing test is a very straightforward: in the original example, it’s proposed that a human judge would interrogate both a human and a computer, but through textual messages so the judge didn’t know which was which. Turing argued that if the judge couldn’t reliably tell the two apart after questioning, the computer has passed the test—and so it must be intelligent. Simple as that. Turing deals only with intelligence and deliberately avoid the question of consciousness, but his ideas are still fascinating—he gets us thinking about what it means to be human, and makes us realise that we ourselves are just machines: intricate, complex molecular machines. It might not be so far fetched that we, the intelligent products of billions of years of evolution, could build other intelligent beings.

The Turing Test: Artificial Intelligence

For hundreds of years, great minds have mused about artificial intelligence, and at what point artificial becomes real. How can we tell if computer that’s programmed to imitate humans is really intelligent, or if it’s just imitating intelligence? After the success of WWII technology, these questions were raised extensively —and British mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing proposed with a logical, simple solution. He wrote a controversial and provocative paper in 1950, which confidentially asserted that computers would indeed come to rival human intelligence—but the paper’s most famous element is the “Imitation Game”, now better known as the “Turing Test”. The Turing test is a very straightforward: in the original example, it’s proposed that a human judge would interrogate both a human and a computer, but through textual messages so the judge didn’t know which was which. Turing argued that if the judge couldn’t reliably tell the two apart after questioning, the computer has passed the test—and so it must be intelligent. Simple as that. Turing deals only with intelligence and deliberately avoid the question of consciousness, but his ideas are still fascinating—he gets us thinking about what it means to be human, and makes us realise that we ourselves are just machines: intricate, complex molecular machines. It might not be so far fetched that we, the intelligent products of billions of years of evolution, could build other intelligent beings.

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