That's it, computers, you're getting way too clever now. A chatbot has convinced a team of human beings that it was a 13-year-old boy, becoming the first computer in history to pass the Turing test. You can speak to "Eugene Goostman", as its makers named him, here. (Caveat: the university site is struggling to keep up with demand thanks to all the attention, so keep trying.)
Designed by legendary computer scientist Alan Turing, the trial tests whether or not a computer's behaviour is indistinguishable from a human's. If over 30 per cent of its human interrogators are duped, the machine is said to be "thinking". Cue "Thus Spake Zarathustra" from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
"Eugene Goostman" was entered for tests at the Royal Society in London. Over the course of several five-minute text conversations, it managed to convince a third of the judges that it was a human being. No computer in history had ever achieved this before.
"In the field of artificial intelligence there is no more iconic and controversial milestone than the Turing Ttest," Professor Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading said. "This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting.''
The machine was built by a Ukrainian called Eugene Demchenko and a Russian called Vladimir Veselov. Speaking to the Telegraph, Veselov said: ''It's a remarkable achievement for us and we hope it boosts interest in artificial intelligence and chatbots.'' Translation: the sex chatbots that pop up when you're trying to illegally stream films are going to become all too real.
Professor Warwick warned that the results have wider implications. "Having a computer that can trick a human into thinking that someone, or even something, is a person we trust is a wake-up call to cybercrime," he said. "It is important to understand more fully how online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true, when in fact it is not."
Other teams have laid claims to having passed Turing's exam, but this series of experiments was different in that no questions were set beforehand – a key requirement for a true Turing test.
Poignantly, "Eugene Goostman" became the first computer programme to pass the test on the 60th anniversary of Alan Turing's death. Despite his groundbreaking work as a programmer and a World War II codebreaker, Turing committed suicide in 1954, two years after he was convicted of "gross indecency" with another man.
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