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Robots can now officially imitate humans

Christian Bale, star of "Terminator Salvation," poses at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles, Thursday, May 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Chris Pizze
What could possibly go wrong?
By Kabir Chibber
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A computer that has convinced humans it is a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy has potentially passed a benchmark for artificial intelligence for the first time.

The programme, named “Eugene Goostman” and created by Russian developers, managed to convince 33% of the judges that it was human at an event at the Royal Society in London, The Independent reported. The so-called Turing Test states that a computer should be judged as “thinking” if it can convince more than 30% of those interacting that it is human. ”Eugene” was not that excited by its success. “I feel about beating the turing test in quite convenient way,” it replied. “Nothing original.”

The test was derived from Alan Turing, the brilliant British mathematician and computer pioneer who died 60 years ago yesterday. Turing didn’t actually name the test after himself, but after a Victorian parlor trick called the imitation game. He said in 1950:

I believe that in about fifty years’ time it will be possible to programme computers… to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 percent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning.

While this didn’t happen by the year 2000, it seems Turing was off by only 14 years. His test brings to mind the Voight-Kampff Test from the seminal film Blade Runner, used to distinguish “replicants” (humanoid robots) from real people by asking them a serious of awkward questions designed to provoke an emotional response. The scene in the Philip K. Dick-penned short story that inspired the film was reportedly inspired by Turing’s thoughts.

Separately, the Chicago Police Department made its first arrest using facial recognition software. After committing a robbery at gunpoint, Pierre D. Martin was identified by computer software scanning the police’s 4.5 million criminal booking shots, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Chicago police used NeoFace, software developed by Australia’s NEC, which was acquired by the police department using a $5.4 million federal grant.

As humanity hurtles towards its robot-controlled future, try speaking to “Eugene,” the creepy Turing test-passing bot, here.

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