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  • What is consciousness?

  • Can an artificial machine really think?

  • Does the mind just consist of neurons in the brain,

  • or is there some intangible spark at its core?

  • For many, these have been vital considerations

  • for the future of artificial intelligence.

  • But British computer scientist Alan Turing decided to disregard all these questions

  • in favor of a much simpler one:

  • can a computer talk like a human?

  • This question led to an idea for measuring aritificial intelligence

  • that would famously come to be known as the Turing test.

  • In the 1950 paper, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence,"

  • Turing proposed the following game.

  • A human judge has a text conversation with unseen players

  • and evaluates their responses.

  • To pass the test, a computer must be able to replace one of the players

  • without substantially changing the results.

  • In other words, a computer would be considered intelligent

  • if its conversation couldn't be easily distinguished from a human's.

  • Turing predicted that by the year 2000,

  • machines with 100 megabytes of memory would be able to easily pass his test.

  • But he may have jumped the gun.

  • Even though today's computers have far more memory than that,

  • few have succeeded,

  • and those that have done well

  • focused more on finding clever ways to fool judges

  • than using overwhelming computing power.

  • Though it was never subjected to a real test,

  • the first program with some claim to success was called ELIZA.

  • With only a fairly short and simple script,

  • it managed to mislead many people by mimicking a psychologist,

  • encouraging them to talk more

  • and reflecting their own questions back at them.

  • Another early script PARRY took the opposite approach

  • by imitating a paranoid schizophrenic

  • who kept steering the conversation back to his own preprogrammed obsessions.

  • Their success in fooling people highlighted one weakness of the test.

  • Humans regularly attribute intelligence to a whole range of things

  • that are not actually intelligent.

  • Nonetheless, annual competitions like the Loebner Prize,

  • have made the test more formal

  • with judges knowing ahead of time

  • that some of their conversation partners are machines.

  • But while the quality has improved,

  • many chatbot programmers have used similar strategies to ELIZA and PARRY.

  • 1997's winner Catherine

  • could carry on amazingly focused and intelligent conversation,

  • but mostly if the judge wanted to talk about Bill Clinton.

  • And the more recent winner Eugene Goostman

  • was given the persona of a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy,

  • so judges interpreted its nonsequiturs and awkward grammar

  • as language and culture barriers.

  • Meanwhile, other programs like Cleverbot have taken a different approach

  • by statistically analyzing huge databases of real conversations

  • to determine the best responses.

  • Some also store memories of previous conversations

  • in order to improve over time.

  • But while Cleverbot's individual responses can sound incredibly human,

  • its lack of a consistent personality

  • and inability to deal with brand new topics

  • are a dead giveaway.

  • Who in Turing's day could have predicted that today's computers

  • would be able to pilot spacecraft,

  • perform delicate surgeries,

  • and solve massive equations,

  • but still struggle with the most basic small talk?

  • Human language turns out to be an amazingly complex phenomenon

  • that can't be captured by even the largest dictionary.

  • Chatbots can be baffled by simple pauses, like "umm..."

  • or questions with no correct answer.

  • And a simple conversational sentence,

  • like, "I took the juice out of the fridge and gave it to him,

  • but forgot to check the date,"

  • requires a wealth of underlying knowledge and intuition to parse.

  • It turns out that simulating a human conversation

  • takes more than just increasing memory and processing power,

  • and as we get closer to Turing's goal,

  • we may have to deal with all those big questions about consciousness after all.

What is consciousness?

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【TED-Ed】The Turing test: Can a computer pass for a human? - Alex Gendler

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