The following quote is from Chapter 3 of “The Adventures of The Guardian: Urban Legends. On page 15 it is stated:
“As the field trip progressed Kevin began to think Alex might have
a point. As Dr. Sharpe gave them the tour, the things he showed them
did seem like they belonged in a science fiction movie. There were
normal experiments like computer models which showed what the
earth might look like in three hundred years, plants he claimed had
been especially genetically engineered to be more resistant to cold
and a computer with a processing system designed to allow it to pass
something called the Turing Test.”
The above quote shows how a science fiction writer can make their fiction more believable by sprinkling bits of science in the story they are writing. There are of course new computer programs and systems being developed all the time. The more interesting part of this quote however, is the fact that the program that Eureka Industries is developing passes the Turing test. The Turing test actually exists and is mixed into the fictional projects Eureka industry is studying to make Kevin’s story more real.
So, what is the goal of doing this? Why would they want a computer that is indistinguishable from a human being?
In this post I am going to take you back into the interesting mix of science fiction and fact that is the Turing test.
The Turing test was developed in the 1950s by Dr. Alan Turing, who proposed that a computer’s measurable intelligence would eventually equal or exceed that of human beings. He also suggested that interactions with computers and humans would be impossible to distinguish.
The Turing test involves having a participant have a series of conversations with humans and computer programs. When a participant couldn’t tell the difference between a conversation with a computer and the human, Turing argued true artificial intelligence would have been achieved.
I once took a computer science course where we were shown a program that had won a Turing test competition that year. This was considered the best program possible at the time to meet the requirements of the test. The point was to have a simple conversation through typing with the program that referred to itself as Alan.
The conversation was friendly and engaging. However, it was almost immediately obvious that Allen was not a person. Every conversation would go something like this:
“Hello, my name is Alan. What is your name?”
“My name is Lee.”
“Hello, Lee. What do you want to talk about?”
“That’s a type of entertainment, right?”
“What’s your favourite movie, Lee?”
“A Christmas Carol. What about you?”
“I don’t want to talk about that.”
Every conversation went like this. The program would ask for a conversation topic followed by an attempt to categorize the question. Any attempt to ask for personal opinions or information was answered by:
“I don’t want to talk about that,”
For me, the precise nature of these conversations quickly told me I was talking to a computer. Meaning that the program failed the Turing test. At the time of this post passing the Turing test remains science fiction.
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Thanks for reading,
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Lee Ward - author of superhero and sci-fi stories.