A-Z of the digital world
Monday 17 June 1996
Artificial intelligence (AI) gurus found the Turing test intriguing, and in 1964 Joseph Weizenbaum, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote Eliza - a program that behaved like a psychotherapist (one using non-directive therapy, mostly echoing what people say and picking up on mentions of parents).
People who didn't know Eliza was a program believed it was a person - a fact that Weizenbaum found worrying, though possibly it tells us more about psychotherapy than AI. Eliza was a milestone. But the question of whether a machine could persuade a sceptical observer it was human remained open.
In 1991 Hugh Loebner, a maker of disco-dancing floors, began sponsoring an annual contest with a $10,000 prize for anyone whose machine passed a limited Turing test: it would have to be proficient in only one subject (such as Star Trek, or cave-diving). A panel of judges talks with a series of pairs of terminals - one connected to a machine, the other to a person - and rates each on their level of "human-ness." Usually, the machines could be spotted easily - they didn't make spelling mistakes.
This year, the contest (held in April) was won by a program written by Jason Hutchens, of the Centre for Intelligent Information Processing Systems at the University of Western Australia. His HeX program "pretended" to be Australian. (Please, no snide comments about that making it easier.) Hutchens's Web page about it all can be found at .
Objectively, Hutchens's program seems rather capable. A sample dialogue:
PROGRAM: Well, should my age really matter? Just for the record I am 24. How old are you, then?
JUDGE: I'm 21.
PROGRAM: If you are 21, it's your business, mate! Would you like to hear a joke? Knock, knock ...
JUDGE: I don't much care for knock-knock jokes, but go on ...
PROGRAM: No, let me tell you one first. Knock, knock.
JUDGE: who's there?
JUDGE: Cindy who?
PROGRAM: Cindy next judge in, please!
Life & Style blogs
Ebola crisis: Cases pass 10,000 as almost 5,000 killed by disease in eight countries
Alexander Wang for H&M: Pumping video of the campaign filmed in London has been released
Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
Our gums are less healthy than Roman Britons', scientists claim
NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
- 1 Stem cells that can kill cancer have been engineered by scientists
- 2 Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench back campaign to stop Thailand dog meat trade
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Queen's first tweet: Reply telling Her Majesty to 'f*** off' broadcast on BBC News
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...