Serious Imitations

In a key scene in "The Imitation Game", Alan Turing realises that although he and his team have cracked the Enigma code, they must use the information very carefully in order to keep the Germans from becoming suspicious. This in turn made me think about the Turing test and the never-ending discussion about whether artificial intelligence is a threat or not.

Last year, a Turing test competition was held at the Royal Society London to mark the 60th anniversary of Turing's death. It was won by the Russian chatter bot Eugene Goostman. The bot, during a series of five-minute-long text conversations, convinced 33% of the contest's judges that it was human. The competition's organisers claim that the Turing test had been "passed for the first time" at the event. However, this statement has been criticised for example based on the fact that the program's character claimed to be a 13 year old Ukrainian who learned English as a second language.

The Turing Test has a certain lure. It makes us think about what it is to be human. Are we really so simple that a mere machine can imitate us? Perhaps that is also the theme of the movie: what it is to be human? To think and behave differently from other people? To become angry and fight? To want to save your family? To seek to contribute to a better world? To aspire to make history? To wish to be loved?

Maybe Stephen Hawking is right. He told the BBC that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

In my opinion, if computers are so clever, wouldn't they, just like Turing and his team, try to deceive us for as long as possible, luring us to believe that the singularity is still a long way away?

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