Dr. Mark Humphrys

School of Computing. Dublin City University.

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Mark Humphrys - Research - The Turing Test


Turing Test publications

The Turing Test

In 1989 I hooked up an AI chatbot called "MGonz" to the Internet. Many people talked to it, and one in particular argued with it for an hour and a half, convinced he was talking to a human being. This story is told on my page: "How my program passed the Turing Test".

MGonz is finally written up as a book chapter: Humphrys, Mark (2008), "How my program passed the Turing Test", Chapter 15 of Parsing the Turing Test: Philosophical and Methodological Issues in the Quest for the Thinking Computer, Robert Epstein, Gary Roberts and Grace Beber (eds.), Springer, 2008.


*  MGonzNet                                         
* --------------------------------------------------
*  help          Help                               
*  who           Nice VM Who                        
*  scoop         The truth!                         
*  get           Get the p program for your machine 
*  p             Query VM/SCS printer queues        
*  p :printer:   Query specific printer             
* --------------------------------------------------

What my chatbot system in 1989 looked like.

What is the Turing Test?

The "Turing Test" is a thought experiment suggested by Alan Turing in 1950. He asked, if you could not tell the difference between a machine and a human, then on what grounds would you deny the machine was intelligent? I think the Turing Test is very much the wrong way to think about AI. See my criticisms below.

What is an "Eliza" program?

An Eliza-type program is a way of making a chat program that responds to conversation by asking questions, and other such tricks.

Discussion - The Turing Test is the wrong way to think

  1. Can machines think?
    Of course they can, for we are machines and we think.

  2. Could a non-human machine think?
    Sure. Aliens could evolve and become intelligent.

  3. Could a non-biological machine think?
    What's the definition of non-biological? Why does it matter if the machine is "biological" or "non-biological"?

  4. Could an artificial intelligence (or indeed any non-human intelligence) convincingly pass for a human?
    No, of course not. Even if you're not allowed see it, you can ask it where it is from, who its mother was, where it went to school. Talk about events in your childhood. Where did you live? Oh did you know such and such? Did you ever go to this place? No one can lie forever. If the machine is not allowed talk about its real life history, you'll soon find the cracks. And if you're forced to only talk about abstract topics, the stilted conversation will prove little. But who cares? The goal of AI should not be to pass this ridiculous test.

  5. But how will we be able to tell it's intelligent then?
    When aliens discover us, how will they be able to tell we're intelligent? We won't be able to pass as convincing aliens.

  6. But, says Turing, You only think I'm intelligent because of my behaviour.
    No I don't. I know you're intelligent without even meeting you or hearing a word you say. I know you're intelligent because I'm related to you.
    In fact, I am currently trying to prove this literally.

  7. Could a teletype program think?
    I doubt it - intelligence without bodies has never existed (see argument).

The Turing Test is irrelevant

Thinking that the goal of AI should be to pass the Turing Test is such the wrong way to think that I don't know where to start. The Turing Test served its purpose in its day, but it's irrelevant now.

Turing was dealing with people who just couldn't believe a machine could ever think, and so was making the philosophical point that if you couldn't tell the difference, why would you deny it was thinking? Nowadays everyone (at least everyone in cognitive science) agrees that machines could think (for we are examples of such), and the question is what sort of machines and how to construct them.

So the Turing Test may be unimportant, but AI carries on. There's plenty going on in AI, especially in the branches inspired by animal rather than human behavior, and in self-modifying systems of all kinds - in particular those using learning, but also those using evolution. For an introduction to this type of AI see here and here.

Behaviour-based, non-linguistic Turing Test

The winning entry in BotPrize 2010.
See more videos.

Return to my Research page.

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On Internet since 1987.