Turing Test ‘reworked for programmers’, predicts Hoare

26 June 2012
Chris Edwards
Mobile version
Share |
Professor Sir Tony Hoare

Professor Sir Tony Hoare, Microsoft: programs of the future will be written by collaboration, taking the particular skills of each of the human and computer parties.

Credit: Chris Edwards

Professor Sir Tony Hoare has proposed an alternative Turing Test that could yield more effective tools for software developers at a prestige conference dedicated to the developer of arguably the famous method for assessing the quality of artificial intelligence.

Speaking at the Alan Turing Centenary Conference in Manchester, Hoare, principal researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, asked whether computers can understand their own programs – and how long it might take for that to become possible.

“Turing predicted that within 50 years that a machine would pass his test: it seems a little nearer now than when he made that prediction," Hoard said. "If I had to make a 50-year prediction, this would be it: that a computer could understand its own program and assist the programmer to make changes and improvements,”

Hoare added: “This engineering version of the Turing Test would involve an interactive examination of the machine on a single topic – its own program – for as long as desired. The machine would not have to answer all of the questions. For his test, Turing showed that the computer will always have some questions it can’t answer.”

Hoare said the computer would be expected to answer questions such as whether the program it is running could overflow a buffer. “And if so, give a test case that shows the error. It would also be able to generate test cases that exercise all the changes recently made to the program and answer whether a certain change would make the program slower.”

Hoard predicted that "programs of the future will be written by collaboration, taking the particular skills of each of the parties [human and computer]. The human understands the real world, who will use the program and its commercial value. The computer understands the detail of the program and the consequences of changing it.”

Hoare explained that progress is being made to towards this end as computers are increasingly being called upon not just to demonstrate mathematical proofs but generate them. An example is the attempt to prove the Kepler conjecture on the most efficient packing of spheres. “The FlySpeck project aims to provide a completely computerised proof. In this work, there is a collaboration between human and computer, but it is very asymmetric,” he said.

Hoare stressed that understanding does not mean the computer would be able to reflect on the meaning of the program in the way a human would. “My version of the Turing Test doesn’t give much support to Alan Turing’s hope that we could make a computer that thinks.”

More Information:

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Digital Forensic Specialist (Audio)

    Met Police
    • London
    • Circa £37,305 plus £3,406 location allowance

    You’ll contribute to a wide range of research and development activities.

    • Recruiter: Met Police

    Apply for this job

  • MetOp-SG Receiver Project Manager

    Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
    • STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell, Oxfordshire
    • £37,213 - £50,926 (depending on experience)

    Project Manager to oversee the development, production and test of spaceflight components and integrated receiver systems

    • Recruiter: Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

    Apply for this job

  • Systems Engineer

    Reaction Engines Ltd
    • Abingdon, Oxfordshire
    • Competitive + Benefits

    Perform general systems engineering tasks as necessary with specific focus on electronic systems and instrumentation.

    • Recruiter: Reaction Engines Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Production Manager

    Reaction Engines Ltd
    • Abingdon, Oxfordshire
    • Competitive + Benefits

    An amazing opportunity to plan, direct and coordinate all manufacturing operations and activities in line with company strategy and business plan.

    • Recruiter: Reaction Engines Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Navigation Sensors Principle Engineer

    • Stevenage
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What?s the opportunity? An exciting opportunity has arisen in a rapidly evolving international team with increasing capabilities.  The Navigation Sensors Group is responsible for the...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Technology Manager - External Communications

    BAE Systems
    • Frimley, England, Surrey
    • Negotiable

    Technology Manager - External Communications Would you like Lead the technical delivery of the External Communications System (ECS) capability sustainment & evolution projects within the common ECS (cECS) Baseline Design Management (BDM) programme? Th

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Graduate Process Engineer

    EFFECT Photonics
    • Brixham, Devon
    • £20,000 to £25,000

    Join our exciting journey to deliver new standards in the availability of data bandwidth.

    • Recruiter: EFFECT Photonics

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Principal Materials Engineer

    • Stevenage
    • Competitive salary & benefits

    What?s the opportunity? A fantastic opportunity has arisen for an experienced materials engineer/scientist specialising in non-metallic materials and processing. You will be given responsibility for...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Postdoctoral Research Associate

    The University of Liverpool
    • Liverpool, Merseyside
    • £32,600 - £37,768 pa

    Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in a brand new area of communications.

    • Recruiter: The University of Liverpool

    Apply for this job

  • Test Engineering Opportunities

    • Hanslope Park, Milton Keynes
    • Salary offered will depend on skills and experience

    Push incredible innovations beyond their limits. Opportunities for Software, Hardware, EMC, Test and Inspection Engineers!

    • Recruiter: HMGCC

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T