Artificial Intelligence and the Turing Test

In cognitive psychology, the human brain and how it functions is a constant source of fascination. One thing that has always interested researchers of the brain is how it sets us apart from other living organism and machines (such as computers). It is still not known whether computers, who have artificial intelligence, are capable of mimicking human intelligence. Artificial intelligence is defined as the intelligence exhibited by machines and software. One person who was interested in  the comparison between artificial and human intelligence was British mathematician Alan Turing. Turing is best known for his contributions to modern-day computer science and for inventing the machine that was able to break the Nazi enigma code during WWII. However, he is also extremely important in the study of artificial intelligence. In 1950, he proposed a question, can machines think? , which is considered the basis for studies in artificial intelligence. This question inspired what is known as the Turing Test for Machines.

The Turing test involves a computer talking with a human and trying to make the human believe they are talking with another human. The rule is that if the computer tricks 30% of the human judges into believing it is a human, it is considered to have passed the Turing Test. This summer there was a very exciting milestone in artificial intelligence and the Turing Test. It is believed that for the first time a computer passed the Turing test.

As this Washington Post article by Terrance McCoy describes, a computer developed by Russian scientists passed the Turing test at the 2014 Turing Test, held by the Royal Society in London. Fittingly, the event was held in honor of the 60th anniversary of Alan Turing’s death by suicide. The computer, named Eugene, managed to convince 33% of the judges at the event that they were talking to a 13-year-old from Odessa, Ukraine. However, there is some controversy because some have complained that the fact judges believed they were talking to someone speaking in their second language may have skewed the result. Despite this, Eugene’s success at the Turing test has gotten people talking about the possible repercussions of having machines with human intelligence. For instance, human intelligence in computers would be a worrying development in cybercrime and could change the relationships we have in the future, like in the movie Her, according to McCoy.

I think that as we learn about human cognitive processes in class this semester, it will be interesting to think about how these processes do or don’t separate from machines with artificial intelligence.