Computer science researchers this week revealed that the road to artificial intelligence (AI) has been paved a bit further. A computer algorithm developed in Saint Petersburg, Russia passed the Turing test at an event at the Royal Society of London this weekend.
The Turing test, laid out by computer scientist Alan Turing in 1950, is a method by which researchers determine how human-like a computer can be. The test involves humans interacting with the computer in a blind test and evaluating whether they believe it to be human.
The algorithm that passed the test is a chatbot named Eugene. The program attempts to simulate what it would be like to have a conversation with a 13-year-old boy.
Eugene convinced around one-third of the 30 judges at the event that it was actually a 13-year-old boy. According to the rules of the event, a score of over 30% is considered a success.
There is some controversy, however, as to whether Eugene is the first program to successfully pass the Turing test. Critics point out that another chatbot named Cleverbot passed the Turing test back in 2011 - and with nearly 60% of its judges believing it to be human. The fact that Eugene only simulates a 13-year-old is also a point of contention.
"Some will claim that the Test has already been passed," said Kevin Warwick, a professor at the University of Reading, which organized the event. "The words Turing Test have been applied to similar competitions around the world. However this event involved the most simultaneous comparison tests than ever before, was independently verified and, crucially, the conversations were unrestricted. A true Turing Test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations. We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing's Test was passed for the first time on Saturday."
Eugene has been under development since 2001. The program's lead developer, Vladimir Veselov, stated that the team's idea was for Eugene to be able to speak about anything, but have its claimed age disguise holes in its knowledge.
"We spent a lot of time developing a character with a believable personality," said Vesselov. "This year we improved the 'dialog controller' which makes the conversation far more human-like when compared to programs that just answer questions. Going forward we plan to make Eugene smarter and continue working on improving what we refer to as 'conversation logic.'"
Image via the University of Reading