The every day turing test of internet

This summer, on 23rd of June, was the 100th anniversary from the birth of Alan Turing the great British mathematician and philosopher who envisioned the existence of thinking machines and laid down the foundations of computing and artificial intelligence.

Alan Turing  proposed in his 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” a way to determine whether a machine is actually intelligent or not, known today as the “Turing test“.

The Turing test setupDuring the test a human judge ( noted as C in the image above ) would make a series of questions through a terminal to a couple of individuals A and B, one of whom is actually a machine impersonating a human being. The judge would have to determine who is the human and which is the machine based only on their answers. If the human judge can not tell the difference then the assumption is that the machine is as intelligent as the other human.

 Do we really want machines like that?

Computer programs that can impersonate human beings are proving to be a big problem today. Ironically when I posted my thoughts on singularity a few months ago I received a comment along these lines*:

Even so, wouldn’t it make sesne to describe what those who read this and are scientists or developers can do? Or even how to become a scientist or developer capable of working on this (especially if one is a college student choosing a field of study, although there are also adult education options), so as to make a living by helping to create and shape the Singularity. (Another audience would be people with funding that they would like to direct towards said scientists or developers. Said funders rarely wish to support said efforts merely by giving money to cheerleaders.) Advocating the support of something, without being able to point to specific, active projects trying to accomplish some identifiable component of that thing, can be worse than pointless: it’s hype that doesn’t actually affect any material thing, and sometimes even detracts from the projects actually trying to accomplish the intended goal.

The comment was marked as spam by the Akismet plugin of WordPress but I was not so sure. You see it looks like a perfectly valid opinion of a human being and is very well aligned with the subject of my own post. If it wasn’t for the suspicious “spelling mistake” that spam bots are known to add randomly in order to make their text more authentic and the vague impression that something was missing or was incomplete, I would have serious doubts on the plugin’s judgment on this one.

Of course I was wrong and a google search later I found out that the above is actually an extract from a comment on a relevant post somewhere else on the Internet.

Full circle

Seems like our programs are becoming much better at imitating us. Not just that: they are becoming much better at recognizing programs that try to imitate us. And we end up depending on the latter, programs that are “smarter” or rather more efficient than us in certain domains, to protect ourselves from the former.

In any case we should always keep in mind that there are humans that create and operate those programs on both ends.

* The actual spam comment had been deleted and this is an approximate extract I recreated from the original comment which was used as the source.

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