Machines, over the weekend, took a giant leap forward in their quest to prove to men that they can think too.
Ever since Artificial Intelligence became a regular fixture on computer machines, innovators have been arguing whether or not their creations will be able to think, understand and communicate like real human beings. Over the decades, the machines' processing power and memory has increased exponentially, but still duping Homo sapiens into thinking they're one of them remained an unfulfilled digital desire – until now.
On Saturday, at the Royal Society in London, a chatbot named Eugene Goostman successfully managed to convince its human judges 33 percent of the time that it is a real 13-year-old boy. It was a landmark achievement as it made Eugene the first computer software to cross the 30 percent barrier set by the famous Turing Test.
Introduced in 1950 by the famous British mathematician, Alan Turing, the said test evaluates a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Its inventor had also predicted that the test will be passed by the year 2000, so while his AI prophecy did kick in a bit late, it wasn't inaccurate.
Of course, there have been several claims of passing the test in the past, but unlike Eugene Goostman, none were taken under the supervision of authorities concerned.
"Some will claim that the Test has already been passed," said Professor Kevin Warwick, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at Coventry University. "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.”
Made by Russian-born Vladimir Veselov and Ukrainian-born Eugene Demchenko, the chatbot is a teenager whose existence is limited to the digital world. Yet, when an interrogator questioned him and an actual human being simultaneously for five minutes, one-third of its answers passed off as coming from a human rather than a bot.
Explaining his invention, Veselov added: "Eugene was 'born' in 2001. 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. 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'."
Eugene's now-proven communication skills mean that some nervous nellies may start fearing the emergence of evil AI systems like Skynet or HAL. However, the reality at this point is that Eugene's smooth talking is totally harmless. The only people who can exploit it at this point are cyber criminals and not fictional super computers.