Alan Turing invented the so-called Turing Test as a means of assessing a computer's artificial intelligence

Turing Test passed on anniversary of codebreakers death

A computer program has duped humans into thinking it was a 13-year-old boy to pass the "iconic" Turing Test, experts have said.

Five machines were tested at an event called Turing Test 2014 at the Royal Society in central London to see if they could fool people into thinking they were humans during text-based conversations, as a test of the quality of their artificial intelligence.

Saturday’s event took place on the 60th anniversary of the death of computer science pioneer and Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing who devised the test in 1950, saying that if a machine was indistinguishable from a human then it could be said to be 'thinking'.

In his question and answer game, ‘Can Machines Think?', Turing proposed that if a computer is mistaken for a human more than 30 per cent of the time during a series of five minute keyboard conversations it passes the test.

According to Professor Kevin Warwick, from the University of Reading, no computer had previously achieved this, but 'Eugene Goostman', a computer programme developed to simulate a 13-year-old boy, managed to convince 33 per cent of the judges that it was human.

"In the field of artificial intelligence there is no more iconic and controversial milestone than the Turing Test,” he said. "It is fitting that such an important landmark has been reached at the Royal Society in London, the home of British science and the scene of many great advances in human understanding over the centuries.”

The successful machine was created by Russian-born Vladimir Veselov, who lives in the USA, and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko who lives in Russia.

"It's a remarkable achievement for us and we hope it boosts interest in artificial intelligence and chatbots," said Veselov.

"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'."

Warwick said there had been previous claims that the test was passed in similar competitions around the world, but claimed this was the first test to meet all the requirements set down by the famous mathematician.  

“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,” he said.

“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.

Prof Warwick said having a computer with such artificial intelligence had "implications for society" and would serve as a "wake-up call to cyber-crime".

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