Turing Test ‘Beaten’ By Program Pretending To Be Teenage Boy

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Test passed after 65 years, according to London event organisers, but success might be bad news for internet security

Updated: It’s been claimed the Turing Test, designed to see whether artificial intelligence could fool people into believing computer programs are human, has been passed for the first time ever by a computer program. On balance, these claims are dubious, but what follows is what we published on Monday. Skip to the comments for discussion.

The program, named Eugene Goostman, posed as a 13-year-old boy during an event at the Royal Society in London on Saturday, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the death of Alan Turing, the codebreaker considered one of the founders of modern computing.

Eugene had conversations with the judges, 33 percent of whom were convinced the computer was a real boy after interactions with the machine, the University of Reading announced yesterday.

The judges simply sat at a terminal with a split screen, sending and receiving messages from a human and a computer program. Four other programs based on supercomputers tried to beat the Turing Test and failed.

turingThe “first true pass” of the Turing Test?

It’s been claimed the Turing Test has been passed before but organisers said this was the only one that followed all the rules correctly.

“This event involved the most simultaneous comparison tests than ever before, was independently verified and, crucially, the conversations were unrestricted,” said Professor Kevin Warwick, a Visiting Professor at the University of Reading and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at Coventry University.

“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.”

Professor Warwick also noted that the success of the competition also had negative connotations. Some the world’s most prevalent protections against bots used for criminal purposes, such as logging into people’s Internet accounts, use takes on the Turing Test, such as CAPTCHA.

“Of course the Test has implications for society today. 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 cyber crime.”

Eugene was born in 2001, the creation of Russian Vladimir Veselov and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko, who focused on producing a believable character.

“Our main idea was that he can claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn’t know everything,” said Veselov.

“We spent a lot of time developing a character with a believable personality. 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’.”

Turing was recently pardoned by the UK governmentoverturning his 1952 conviction for homosexuality.

UPDATE: Various claims have emerged to suggest the program did not pass the Turing Test, as the character of Eugene had been decided beforehand and the program should have been able to score as well as humans.

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