Not that many people today will see it that way, but I’ll wager that historians a thousand years from now will mark this event as more significant than even the great wars of the 20th century.
The Turing Test has been passed: just sixty-four years after it was defined.
For those of you who don’t know, British mathematician Alan Turing, the father of the general-purpose computing machine, on which all our modern computing devices are based, defined his test in 1950, as a criterion as to whether or not a computer could be said to “think”. According to Turing’s original formulation, a machine could be regarded as “thinking” if it succeeded in an imitation game: convincing a human interrogator that it, too, was human, and not a machine.
“Eugene Goostman”, a Russian-developed chatterbot program, finally succeeded in fooling a panel of judges (which, amusingly, included actor Robert Llewellyn, who played the android Kryten in Red Dwarf) at the Royal Society last week into believing he was a thirteen-year-old Ukranian boy. The results of the event, organized by the University of Reading, were announced yesterday by Professor Kevin Warwick. The threshold of fooling 33% of judges was reached, after several attempts in recent years came tantalizingly close.
This means the way is now open for human-like machines to interact with us in a myriad of ways not possible with human-to-human relationships. Whether or not they start getting malevolent ideas of their own, like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, is in the hands of future programmers, businessmen, philosophers and politicians.
After thousands of years of trying, human beings achieved powered flight in 1903. Just sixty-six years later, we set foot on the moon. Seriously, the future holds mighty promise.