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
iPhone 7 (or iPhone 6S) leaked pictures show similarities to older model — but Apple is fixing the biggest issue of all
People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
Google has set its terrifying, dreaming image robots on the public
The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 4 James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
- 5 Baby rescued 1km out to sea after parents forgot about her
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