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Dante D’Orazio of The Verge reports, “Eugene Goostman seems like a typical 13-year-old Ukrainian boy — at least, that’s what a third of judges at a Turing Test competition this Saturday thought. Goostman says that he likes hamburgers and candy and that his father is a gynecologist, but it’s all a lie. This boy is a program created by computer engineers led by Russian Vladimir Veselov and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko. That a third of judges were convinced that Goostman was a human is significant — at least 30 percent of judges must be swayed for a computer to pass the famous Turing Test. The test, created by legendary computer scientist Alan Turing in 1950, was designed to answer the question ‘Can machines think?’ and is a well-known staple of artificial intelligence studies.”

 

James Temple of Re/code noted, “The Independent provided a revealing quote from Vladimir Veselov, one of the chatbot’s creators: ‘Our main idea was that he can claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn’t know everything. We spent a lot of time developing a character with a believable personality.’ Their program may be a notable computer science feat, but I’ll assert two things. First, the researchers passed the letter of the Turing Test, but I’m not so sure about the spirit of it. I’m not left believing that the computer can think — the underlying benchmark of the test — I’m left believing that the programmers figured out a clever way to trick the judges.”

 

He continues, “Second point: It doesn’t really matter. Turing’s obvious genius notwithstanding, the test has become an arbitrary way of measuring something that can’t really be measured: Whether or not a computer is actually thinking. Which is a less-disturbing way of saying: Whether or not a computer is sentient. I come down on the side of the late Dutch computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra, who is quoted as saying: ‘The question of whether machines can think … is about as relevant as the question of whether submarines can swim’.”

 

Do you agree with Mr. Temple? Share your opinion with a comment.

 

Image: Courtesy Fickr/ joncallas