Turing Test

A computer recently passed the Turing test for the first time in the history of Turing test! So I had to figure out what the big deal was all about

What is the Turing test?

Turing test is a test for artificial intelligence that was proposed by English mathematician Alan Turing in one of his research papers. In order to pass the test, a computer has to fool the judges (who don’t know if the thing answering their questions is a human or a  computer in the first place) into believing that the computer is a human being. If the computer is able to do that in more than 3 times out of 10 (30%), then they are believed to have been passed the test.

When was it first used as a test for Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

First used in 1991 when a professor Dr. Hugh Loebner pledged $100,000 to the first winner to pass the Turing test. Competitors now compete annually for what is known as the Loebner Prize.

How is the test scored?

Turing’s concept was that a machine would need to fool a minimum of 30% of its “average human” interrogators into not being able to correctly state which half of the screen was which in order to pass. There are usually 2 participants and then a panel of judges. The judges don’t know which participant is human and which participant is a computer. The judges get to ask a bunch of questions and have to guess who the machine is based on the answers that they get to those questions. If in more than 30% of the responses, the judges guess incorrectly, the computer passes the Turing Test.

What does that mean for us?

For a computer to pass the Turing test is a huge achievement considering it has taken more than 60 years since the first inception of the test. It also means that the days of ‘Terminator’ and ‘Her’ are not far in the Future. This article by Forbes puts things in perspective:

“So think of yourself in the future, faced by a networked robot invader that you cannot reason with, who doesn’t stick to your rules of engagement, who is far more powerful, who outthinks you at every turn and can even fool you into thinking it is another human.”

We should be afraid. Very afraid.


2 thoughts on “Turing Test

  1. Jeff says:

    what would be better: to be stranded on a desert island with a computer that has passed the turing test, or with a monkey that is smarter than 30% of the rest of the human population?

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