The Turing Test

If you have ever watched the Benedict Cumberbatch starrer “The Imitation Game”, you might be well familiar with who Alan Turing is. Alan Turing was a famous English computer scientist, cryptologist and mathematician who is considered as one of the pioneers of Artificial Intelligence. “Can machines think?” this seemingly inane and rather strange question bothered him. He researched further. While working on these thinking machines, he found a need to test machine’s intelligence so he created a test in 1950 which is eponymously named after him and has quite become synonymous with him.

Turing suggested that by the year 2000, the average interrogator would have less than a 70% chance of making the right decision after five minutes of questioning.

How does the Turing test take place?

Turing test involves 3 people

  1. An Interrogator (Human, Male or Female)

  2. A Human (Either male or Female)

  3. Computer/Machine

Three of this people sit in position as shown in below figure. Precaution should be taken that the interrogator cannot see the other two participants i.e. the human and the machine.

          Image result for turing test

As the test begins, the interrogator will ask questions to the participants and he has to decide whether the answerer is human or machine. To keep it strict and information leak proof and not let the interrogator decide by voice, the questions and answers should be in written format, preferably in typewritten format.

If the Interrogator fails to differentiate between them, then it is considered that the machine has passed the Turing Test.

Eugene Goostman, a chatterbot created by three Russian programmers has passed the Turing test for first time. On 7 June 2014, in a Turing test competition at the Royal Society, organized by Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading to mark the 60th anniversary of Turing’s death, Goostman won after 33% of the judges were convinced that the bot is human.

In 1990, New York businessman Hugh Loebner set up the annual Loebner Prize competition with a prize of $100,000 to the creator of a machine that could pass the Turing Test.

Here is a list of Loebner Prize winners.

So you might ask why the Turing test is important. It is true that the importance of the Turing test has been widely debated since its inception and it does have some weaknesses with the most prominent being that some human behavior is unintelligent and some intelligent behavior is inhuman. Also, the test is concerned with how the machine acts not necessarily if it has a mind. As John Searle, eminent philosopher argues that action or external behavior cannot necessarily prove that the subject has a mind, which is a legitimate point. Even Alan Turing himself anticipated that criticism or argument. These design flaws puts the test in a position where it is of little relevance in pragmatic fields for today’s scientists.

But being one of the first and crucial steps in asking whether a machine can ‘think’ or giving it some anthropomorphic qualities along with its simplicity makes the Turing test important and one of the founding steps for the birth of Artificial Intelligence. Nevertheless, ‘I, Robot’ anyone (the book of course)?



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