Some call it a breakthrough in computer intelligence, while others take it with a shoulder shrug and remain highly skeptical. Last weekend, a Russian computer program called Eugene Goostman, which mimics a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine, passed the iconic Turing Test--which requires at least 30 percent of human questioners to believe a computer is actually human based on text interactions. In this test, "Eugene" convinced 33 percent of its interrogators that it was human. Organizers of the test in London claim this is the first time any computer has passed the test, which was developed in 1950 by British scientist Alan Turing as a definitive means of measuring artificial intelligence.
Despite the trumpeted results of this weekend's test, much of the computer science community questions the validity of these results, and even of the Turing Test itself. Moshe Vardi, computer science professor at Rice University, tells KTRH the idea behind the Turing Test is fairly simple. "We say well, it behaves like a person, walks like a person, talks like a person, so it is as intelligent as a person." However, he notes that intelligence doesn't necessarily equate to being human-like. "The way to convince people you are human is not by being intelligent, but by being as quick as humans, rather than as logical as a computer," says Vardi. He uses a popular non-human character to illustrate the point. "Mr. Spock would not come across as a human because he's just too logical...it doesn't mean he's not intelligent, he does not think like a human being, he thinks in a different way."
The other big issue with the Turing Test is the fact that it's more than 60 years old, and computer technology has come a long way since then. "(This test) was the intention in 1950, but now we are in 2014 so the question is do we still take this test as seriously as when it was proposed in 1950," asks Vardi. Rather than Terminator-esque fears about a "Rise of the Machines," Vardi says the bigger concern for the future should be computers replacing human jobs. "That's what I'm worried about," he says. "Skynet doesn't yet worry me, and Eugene Goostman doesn't worry me either."