Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Don't look now, but - machines closing in on human abilities

NewScientist - January 22 2009, by Colin Barras

Video: As new ways to test how well machines can match aspects of human intelligence are dreamt up, they are getting closer to beating them.

It may have been dreamt up in 1950, but the Turing test - a simple way to tell if a machine can think - still holds powerful sway over many researchers striving to produce a machine at least in some respects equal with a human.

Nowadays, although UK mathematician Alan Turing's test is still relevant, and unbeaten, new forms of it have evolved. In this online special, New Scientist discovers the different ways in which machines can be tested for human-like abilities - and how close they have come to passing as one of us.

I chat, therefore I think

Turing's biggest insight was that it is impossible to know for sure if a machine - or indeed another person - is actually thinking. So he rephrased the question to one that is much easier to answer: Can a machine act like it is thinking?

His test has a human judge engage in two, separate conversations using only text - one with a human and one with a machine. If, after a few minutes of conversation, the judge can't distinguish the two, then the machine is deemed to have passed the test.

A major turning point in the field was Joseph Weizenbaum's chatbot ELIZA, developed in 1966. It achieved impressively "intelligent" results simply by rephrasing what a human said to it:

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