How close is artificial intelligence to human intelligence now? Scientists say artificial intelligence (AI) is very close to becoming self-aware and will soon have the ability to think like human intelligence.
This summer, a computer almost passed the Turing intelligence test. Lets examine the narrowing gap between humans and machines.
This year will be remembered as a turning point in the story of man versus machine. On June 23, with little fanfare, a computer program came within a hair’s breadth of passing the Turing test, a kind of parlour game for evaluating machine intelligence devised by mathematician Alan Turing more than 60 years ago.
This wasn’t as dramatic as Skynet becoming self-aware in the Terminator films, or HAL killing off his human crew mates in 2001, A Space Odyssey. But it was still a sign that machines are getting better at the art of talking – something that comes naturally to humans, but has always been a formidable challenge for computers.
Turing proposed the test – he called it “the imitation game” – in a 1950 paper titled “Computing machinery and intelligence”. Back then, computers were very simple machines, and the field known as Artificial Intelligence (AI) was in its infancy. But already scientists and philosophers were wondering where the new technology would lead. In particular, could a machine “think”?
Turing considered that question to be meaningless, so proposed the imitation game as a way of sidestepping the question. Better, he argued, to focus on what the computer can actually do: can it talk? Can it hold a conversation well enough to pass for human? If so, Turing argued, we may as well grant that the machine is, at some level, intelligent.
In a Turing test, judges converse by text with unseen entities, which may be either human or artificial. (Turing imagined using teletype; today it’s done with chat software.) A human judge must determine, based on a five-minute conversation, whether his correspondent is a person or a machine.