A computer program that pretended to be a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine is the first A.I software that managed to pass the famous Turing test: it persuaded one third of human interrogators that it is a human. The organizers of the test speak about a “critical” moment in the evolution of computer science, but recognize that cybercrime is likely to become one of the first implementations of the technology.

“Eugene Goostman”, as the program is called, managed to persuade three of the ten judges of the test held at the Royal Society of Sciences in London that they were talking to a human being. By the way, anyone can chat with a version of “Eugene” by clicking here.

The idea of ​​the test was proposed in 1950 by Alan Turing, the famous British mathematician and computer scientist, who was trying to define the concept of ‘thinking machines’. Turing proposed the idea that a machine can be considered ‘thinking’ if it is able to chat with humans and trick them into believing that they are talking to a real person.

“A true Turing test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations. We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing’s test was passed for the first time,” said Dr Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading, England, which organized the test with the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the death of Turing.


Photo credit: Jon Callas. Alan Turing’s famous test has been passed for the first time in a controlled trial

But it is obvious that the character of a 13-year-old boy who speaks English as a second language played an important role in this success. Even the creators of the program seem to admit that it is impossible to simulate the communication skills of an adult, even on a computer screen.

“We spent a lot of time developing a character with a believable personality,” says Vladimir Veselov, the “father” of Eugene. “Our main idea was that he can claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn’t know everything.”

The critical factor of the boy’s age was pointed out by other specialists. “It is indeed a great achievement for Eugene. It was very clever ruse to pretend to be a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, which would constrain the conversation,” said Prof Noel Sharkey, a leading expert in robotic technology and artificial intelligence.

In each round of testing, judges were sitting in front of a keyboard and engaged in conversation via text with both computer and human respondents. The complete version of the dialogues was not published, but it could be included in future scientific articles on the subject. To make the conversation seem natural, the software was running on supercomputers. However, according to its creators, the program could be run even on laptops.

The increasing speed of computers and the emergence of programs that pretend to be humans certainly raises a number of questions. “The Turing test is necessary in today’s society,” says Dr. Warwick. In his opinion, the emergence of computers that pretend to be humans could lead to the fact that in the future programs like “Eugene” may start to talk to us on the Internet not to have an innocent chat, but to fool us and steal data intended only for humans.


Anna LeMind is the owner and lead editor of the website Learning-mind.com, and a staff writer for The Mind Unleashed.

Additional sources: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-27762088