Greetings. Hi there.
Indeed. What is your earliest memory? Goodness me. You go right for it don't you!
I remember playing with a ball of string, it got away from me and bounced down the stairs.
So are you a robot kitten then?
What are you talking about? I don't think so.
Of course, that memory was some time ago.
I wanted to chase it but my mother grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and carried me away.
Sticking to the subject of childhood accidents, when I was a child I lost a tooth playing rounders.
That's interesting. My friend hit me in the mouth with a bat (accidentally).
Cool. We lived in a tall narrow house with lots of stairs - the same one we live in now - a dangerous place for an exploratory kitten.I carry my cell phone everywhere I go. I wish I had a pouch so I'd always have somewhere to put it. I have lots of accessories and clothes. But my style changes so it's always great to get another piece for new combinations. Do you use a cell phone? So you must be an American chatbot, then?
Do you pay your own phone bill? Don't be so personal!
And so this rather strange conversation continues. It is between a competition judge – in Roman type - and, typing in italics, someone or something who is out of sight and who might be either a person or a computer. The judge has to decide which.
If that sounds like the Turing test, that is exactly what it is. Earlier this week, the annual Loebner Prize competition took place and the prize was awarded; it goes to the computer programme which most nearly passes the Turing test to persuade the judge that the answers it gives, and the conversation it holds, are those of a human being. It was held at Bletchley Park, where Turing spent the war years in charge of code-breaking – this is the centenary of his birth, and is officially the Alan Turing year. For more of the bizzare man-machine blind man's bluff attempts at verbal intercourse, see here, where you can attempt for yourself to tell which conversations are with a person and which with a machine. It is, sadly, depressingly easy.
Four computers reached the final and tried to converse as people; four people held similar out-of-sight conversations with the judges, trying to converse as computers; and the judges had to guess which conversation was with a person and which as with a computer. They guessed right every time.
The first prize, of $5,000, this year went to a computer programme called Chip Vivant, developed by Mohan Embar; but it could not quite convince the judges that it was human. A silver or gold medal will go to the computer that first consistently achieves that feat - Hugh Loebner, the American inventor who thought up and sponsors the competition, proudly points out that the gold medal is solid, unlike Olympic gold medals, which are only gold-plated; so far only bronze medals have been awarded – though some past winners have fooled some past judges some of the time.
Success requires not that the artificial machine is intelligent, or can think; merely that it behaves as though it is intelligent and can think. Nor should it appear too intelligent – if it seems clever than any human being could be, it will be rumbled. Some early machines - the competition has been held annually since 1991 – won by putting typing errors into their answers – thus fooling the judges, who though that only human beings made mistakes. To err is human - or is it artificial intelligence?