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Can a machine think? Almost!

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October 13, 2008

ACE conversing with human interrogator

ACE conversing with human interrogator

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October 14, 2008 The Loebner Prize for artificial intelligence ( AI ) is the first formal instantiation of a Turing Test, the test named after British mathematician Alan Turing. In 1950, Turing proposed that if the responses from the computer were indistinguishable from that of a human,the computer could be said to be thinking. Last weekend saw the 18th Loebner Prize conducted with the final between five artificial conversational entities (ACEs). All the ACEs managed to fool at least one if their human interrogators, with the eventual winner fooling 25% of its interrogators.

Top machines from around the world were entered into the competition and following extensive scrutiny these were whittled down to the five best for the 12 October finale. During the Turing Test at the University of Reading, the ACEs competed in a series of five minute long, unrestricted conversations with human interrogators, attempting to pass themselves off as human. The interrogators did not know whether they were conversing with a human or a machine during the test.

Alan Turing first devised the imitation game known as the Turing Test in 1950. In his seminal paper "Computing, Machinery & Intelligence", he postulated that, "If, during text-based conversation, a machine is indistinguishable from a human, then it could be said to be 'thinking' and, therefore, could be attributed with intelligence".

Organizer of the Turing Test, Professor Kevin Warwick from the University of Reading's School of Systems Engineering, said: "This has been a very exciting day with two of the machines getting very close to passing the Turing Test for the first time. In hosting the competition here, we wanted to raise the bar in Artificial Intelligence and although the machines aren't yet good enough to fool all of the people all of the time, they are certainly at the stage of fooling some of the people some of the time.

"Today's results actually show a more complex story than a straight pass or fail by one machine. Where the machines were identified correctly by the human interrogators as machines, the conversational abilities of each machine was scored at 80 and 90%.≤ This demonstrates how close machines are getting to reaching the milestone of communicating with us in a way in which we are comfortable. That eventual day will herald a new phase in our relationship with machines, bringing closer the time in which robots start to play an active role in our daily lives."

The program Elbot, created by Fred Roberts was named as the best machine in the 18th Loebner Prize competition and was awarded the $3000 Loebner Bronze Award, by competition sponsor Hugh Loebner.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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