Turing Media Feast, Part III: The Turing Test in Theory and in Real Life [2 Videos]

“A Great science fiction detective story”
Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine

Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Days to Centenary: 83

Today is the last day to enter the Turing Tenner Showdown! Design the best £10 note, win prizes, and be the envy of your friends! Go here for details.

Welcome to Part III of the Turing Media Feast.

Today’s video features Brian Christian, the author of The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive, speaking at the Santa Fe Institute.

This is an excellent video with some really engaging anecdotes, but it has a long and not especially interesting prologue, so let it buffer for a moment or two and then skip ahead to 5:00, which is when Christian is actually introduced.

The Turing Test remained largely a theoretical construct until the creation of the Loebner Prize.

Hugh Loebner, as Christian says, was “a rogue disco dance floor salesman from New Jersey” who got rich selling plastic roll-up lighted portable disco dance floors.

In 1991 he decided to put his disco earnings to good use and sponsored a real-life Turing Test as a competition for a solid gold medal he dubbed the Loebner Prize and the event has run every year since.

The Loebner Prize Medal (with an irreverent caption) from the content's home page

The Loebner Prize Medal (with an irreverent caption) from the contest's home page

The Loebner Prize web site describes the history of the prize as follows:

In 1990 Hugh Loebner agreed with The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies to underwrite a contest designed to implement the Turing Test. Dr. Loebner pledged a Grand Prize of $100,000 and a Gold Medal (pictured above) for the first computer whose responses were indistinguishable from a human’s. Such a computer can be said “to think.” Each year an annual prize of $2000 and a bronze medal is awarded to the most human-like computer. The winner of the annual contest is the best entry relative to other entries that year, irrespective of how good it is in an absolute sense.

Brian Christian signed up to be a “confederate” in the competition, that is, one of the humans who must convince the judges — through words alone, without being seen — that they are a human rather than a computer imitating a human.

He used this as a jumping off point to examine the question of what it means to act human, or even to be human, not just within the Loebner Prize, but in the rest of life as well, and what can artificial intelligence do to shed light on these questions.

Don’t miss the bonus item after the jump.

Special Bonus Item

As a bonus item, here is a video featuring cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett discussing the Turing Test and  the Loebner Prize.

You can watch the entire video here, listen to or download the audio here, and you can get a pdf of the transcript of the  show here.

Don’t miss the first two parts of this series, featuring Radiolab’s show on Turing and the awesome George Dyson!

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