Has the Turing Test become Worthless?

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The Turing Test

      This test was proposed by British mathematician Alan M. Turing in his 1950 article (now available online) Computing Machinery and Intelligence (Mind, Vol. 59, No. 236, pp. 433-460).   The test was intended to be used to determine if a computer program could display a human level of intelligence - i.e. to show that a computer could think (a radical concept in those days).

     Originally it was to work as follows:  The test would consist of two people and a computer program - all online and communicating with each other by teletype but none could actually see each other.  One of the people was the judge and his job was to ask questions of the other two and to try to determine which was the person and which was the computer program.  If the computer program could fool the judge into thinking it was the human 50% of the time, then that program was said to display a human level of intelligence.

    Conceptually it sounds very easy, but for computer programmers is has been extremely difficult to create a program which could answer arbitrary questions like a human does.  Indeed to date there are few if any programs which can fool a human inquisitor.  There is in fact a whole field of computer programs called chatterbots which attempt to do just that.

     Many people have probably already realized that a superintelligence already exists - it is called the internet. Clearly, all we need to do is to interface the androids to the internet and they will rapidly become superintelligent too. We at Android World plan to introduce such an interface for our Valerie android within a year. Perhaps some readers are familiar with the Loebner prize which is a real prize for a computer program which can pass the Turing test.   That site gives links to their past winners which you can go to and review many of the conversations between the programs and the inquisitors.  I think you will be surprised at how poorly the programs seem to perform.  That will change SOON.

     Although knowledge, which is merely the recitation of known facts, is NOT intelligence, it can certainly be very impressive and can appear to be intelligence.  Imagine that we had a computer program which could access the internet and answer virtually any question to which the answer is known and posted on the internet.  This would vastly exceed the performance of any human or in fact any group of humans which you could assemble.

     Therefore, I can imagine an inquisitor simply asking large numbers of difficult (but known) questions and noting the responses.  The human would be revealed by his inability to answer more than a small fraction of the questions correctly.  The program on the other hand would be able to answer all the questions correctly.   Thus the inquisitor would be able to identify the computer as the one who got all the questions correct and the human as the one who didn't know the answers.   Thus in order to fool the inquisitor,  the computer program would need to purposely answer questions incorrectly or to state that it didn't know the answer.  Now we have arrived at exactly the opposite of the intention of Alan Turing - the program must now pretend to be stupid in order to convince the inquisitor that it is the human and to pass the test showing that it is intelligent.

Comments?   Email me at crwillis@androidworld.com