Turing Test

Named after Alan Turing who proposed it, the Turing test is used to test if a machine is able to mimic the human-like ability to 'think'. Due to the vague definition of the 'ability to think', it was difficult for computer scientists of Turing's time to answer the long-standing question of 'can a machine think'. In an attempt to answer that question, Alan Turing simplified the definition of the 'ability to think', into the action of imitating the response of a human. Thus, the Turing test was created.

The theory behind this simple test is that if a machine is able to imitate a human's response in response to a human's interaction with it, it passes the test of having the ability to 'think'. 

During the test, a human tester will interact with a machine and a fellow human, both of which are hidden from the tester's view. If the tester is unable to distinguish between the machine and the human based on their text based interaction on a screen, the machine passes the test. 

Importance of the Turing Test

This test has been used as a benchmark in the field of artificial intelligence, to determine if a machine is 'intelligent'.

A useful derivative of the Turing test is the CAPTCHA test that we see regularly on the internet recently[1]. The idea of the CAPTCHA is that the user is human if the user is able to reproduce the text displayed in the form of images. 

The Turing Test: The Elusive Standard of Artificial Intelligence (Studies in Cognitive Systems)
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James Moor provides an thorough and comprehensive guide into artificial intelligence, and the role of the Turing Test.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing
Credit: Wikipedia

The creator of the Turing test. He has been described as a mathematician, computer scientist and a cryptographer among many other roles. During his short life, he has had many achievements. Other than proposing the Turing test, his other achievement include working on and breaking German codes during the World War II which helped the Allies to eventually win against the Nazi. 

Alan Turing has been recognized as the 'Father of computing'[2], and has been credited with the conceptualization of the modern computer. He is also being regarded as the individual who has defined the field of Artificial Intelligence. His work during the 1940s have revolutionized the computer science field.

However, he had his run-in with the anti-gay laws of his time and was prosecuted for his homosexuality in 1952. He died shortly thereafter. 

Alan Turing: The Enigma
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Read more about the life of Alan Turing and his contributions in this classic biography.

A movie, The Imitation Game has been made about this amazing man, and is about to be released soon. This movie focuses on Turing's role in cracking the Nazi's code during the World War II. Watch the trailer below.