Artificial intelligence now a step closer to reality

October 14th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by IANS  

Sarah PalinLondon, Oct 14 (IANS) Will Pavia writes for The Times on many issues including computer technology. He had a fair idea of what artificial intelligence was all about. Or so he thought until he met Eugene Goostman and Elbot.His new friends are not humans but among the world’s most intelligent computer systems. If you were to carry on an online conversation with them, as Pavia did, you will find it a bit difficult to realise they are computers and not fellow humans.

Artificial intelligence came another step closer to reality on Sunday after a computer came within five percent of passing the Turing Test which evaluates a system’s ability to demonstrate intelligence.

The test is named after mathematician Alan Turing, who in a 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” proposed that the machine can be considered intelligent if enough people cannot reliably differentiate between a human and a machine during a natural language conversation. To pass the test, a computer should hoodwink a minimum 30 percent of the human judges.

At the annual Loebner Prize competition at the University of Reading on Sunday, one system, dubbed Elbot, managed the most successful score yet when it fooled 25 percent of the judges.

Five computer systems were pitted against five judges on Sunday. They were each given five minutes of unrestricted conversation through a terminal to decide which of the entities they were talking to was a human and a machine.

Pavia, one of the five judges, wrote in The Times of his simultaneous conversations with the computers and fellow-judges.

Here is an example of the conversation:
Pavia wrote: Are you the human or the computer?
Reply on one terminal: What do you think?
Reply on another terminal: Some of my friends are programmers.

Would you be able to say which if the replies was from a computer and which from a judge? Keep thinking.

Pavia finally guessed correctly that he was talking to a computer when in reply to his question on Sarah Palin - US presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate - the terminal flashed: “Sorry, don’t know her”. “No sentient being could possibly answer in this way,” Pavia concluded.

The Loebner Prize was created by American businessman Hugh Loebner in 1990 together with the Cambridge Centre for Behavioural Studies, and is an annual competition offering a grand prize of $100,000 and a gold medal to the first computer to win the Turing Test.

Professor Kevin Warwick, of the School of Systems Engineering at the University of Reading, said: “Although the machines aren’t yet good enough to fool all of the people all of the time, they are certainly at the stage of fooling some of the people some of the time.”

“Today’s results actually show a more complex story than a straight pass or fail by one machine. Where the machines were identified correctly by the human interrogators as machines, the conversational abilities of each machine was scored at 80 and 90 percent.”

Which only means computers are getting better and better in conversing with ease with human beings, gradually reducing the divide between machine and man.

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