Can computers imitate humans? BBC presenter unimpressed by robot that ‘passed’ Turing test (audio)

Jun 13, 2014 | Regulation

This week the news was abuzz with a new super computer that could pass the famous Turing Test and convince people that it was a human during a text conversation. But a new interview with John Humphrys left the BBC Radio 4 presenter rather unimpressed by the automaton. Judge for yourself in the audio sample […]

This week the news was abuzz with a new super computer that could pass the famous Turing Test and convince people that it was a human during a text conversation. But a new interview with John Humphrys left the BBC Radio 4 presenter rather unimpressed by the automaton. Judge for yourself in the audio sample below…


Speaking to ‘Eugene Goostman’, the super computer that allegedly duped humans into thinking it is a 13-year-old boy, Humphrys covered a range of topics including his hobbies and the Ukraine crisis.
The idea that machines can convincingly imitae humans holds huge implications for future marketing, with major brands already investing heavily in automated techniques such as programmatic ad buying, geo targeting and virtual assistants.
Can machines think?
Eugene was said to have passed the Turing test at an event organised by the University of Reading. The test investigates whether people can detect if they are talking to machines or humans
The experiment is based on Alan Turing’s question-and-answer game Can Machines Think? No computer has passed the test before under these conditions, it is reported.
However, some artificial intelligence experts have disputed the victory.
The 65-year-old Turing Test is successfully passed if a computer is mistaken for a human more than 30% of the time during a series of five-minute keyboard conversations.
On 7 June Eugene convinced 33% of the judges at the Royal Society in London that it was human.
“This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting,” said Kevin Warwick, a cybernetics professor at the University of Reading who helped organize the competition, in a press release. In a phone interview, Warwick likened Eugene’s success to the triumph of the supercomputer Deep Blue over chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov.
eugene%20goostman.jpg
Further details about the Turing Test 2014:
– Simultaneous tests as specified by Alan Turing
– Each judge was involved in five parallel tests – so 10 conversations
– 30 judges took part
– In total 300 conversations
– In each five minutes a judge was communicating with both a human and a machine
– Each of the five machines took part in 30 tests
To ensure accuracy of results, Test was independently adjudicated by Professor John Barnden, University of Birmingham, formerly head of British AI Society
‘Rather talk to human beings instead’
Eugene’s responses to Humphrys were voiced by an actor. However, the conversation was abruptly ended by Humphrys when he said he would rather “talk to real human beings instead”.
During the interview on the Today programme, Humphrys asked Eugene, whose simulated nationality is Ukranian, whether he supported the government in Kiev or in Moscow.
Clearly misunderstanding the question, Eugene replied: “All Russian cities especially St Petersburg are famous for beautiful historical buildings, cathedrals and castles. Unfortunately they don’t have enough money to keep them in a good state or at least clean.”
Eugene was also asked whether “he liked girls”. “I like girls but only if they look attractive,” he replied. “In my class most of them are either fat or pimpled. Actually I am a little overweight too.”
Later in the interview, having been questioned on what he liked to do “apart from mixing with girls”, Eugene repeated: “I like girls but only if they look attractive. In my class most of them are either fat or pimpled. Actually I am a little overweight too.”
Humphrys remarked: “That’s the same answer you gave to me just a moment ago.”
The Turing test was devised in 1950 by computer science pioneer and Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing, who said that if a machine was indistinguishable from a human, then it was ”thinking”.
At the end of the conversation, Humphrys told the computer: “I think I shall abandon this attempt at treating a computer like a human being and talk to real human beings instead.”
But in a last attempt to keep the conversation going, Eugene remarked that Humphrys still hadn’t told him where he lived. “Is it a secret?” he asked. Humphrys replied: “No. I’m just not interested in you really. Goodbye.”
Read the announcement from Reading University here
You can try a conversation with Eugene yourself here (Warning- the website can be temperamental due to high demand)

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