Turing Test: Super Computer Passes Artificial Intelligence Milestone, Experts Worried

The Turing test has been passed, an important but troubling milestone as computers move closer to artificial intelligence.

The measure is named for London scientist Alan Turing, one of the pioneers of modern computing and artificial intelligence. In 1950, he published a paper that predicted computers would one day become so intelligent that they would be able to trick a human into thinking they were a fellow human.

The paper gave birth to what would be known as the Turing test, the standard that a computer could fool 30 percent of human interrogators who converse with it for five minutes in a text conversation.

The Turing test was passed for the first time this week through a Russian-made program that disguised itself as a 13-year-old boy. The supercomputer, one of five to enter the 2014 Turing Test, fooled 33 percent of human questioners.

“We are proud to declare that Alan Turing’s Test was passed for the first time on Saturday,” declared Kevin Warwick, a visiting professor at the University of Reading and organizer of the event at the Royal Society in London. “In the field of Artificial Intelligence there is no more iconic and controversial milestone than the Turing Test, when a computer convinces a sufficient number of interrogators into believing that it is not a machine but rather is a human.”

The test has raised concerns among many. Stephen Hawking has warned about the “rise of robots” with the advancement of artificial intelligence. Hawking said that could be the “worst thing to happen to humanity.”

“Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks,” explained Hawking.

Hawking said artificial intelligence would need careful research, but said if done carefully, could help eliminate disease and poverty.

“Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved. There is no physical law precluding particles from being organized in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains.”

Others see other dangers with the Turing test being passed. Experts are worried that a super-intelligent computer could be used for criminal purposes, including identity theft and financial fraud.

“The Test has implications for society today,” Warwick said in a university news release. “Having a computer that can trick a human into thinking that someone, or even something, is a person we trust is a wake-up call to cybercrime…. It is important to understand more fully how online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true… when in fact it is not.”

Not everyone is convinced that the computer truly passed the Turing test, noting that imitating a 13-year-old could be something closer to a gimmick than a true innovation.

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