I took a Turing test and the test won

Example of how the Turing test was done.

Example of how the Turing test was done. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


So if you or I took the Turing test, would we pass? Or fail?


Hold that thought. Ever since we fabricated our first computers, we’ve wondered, can they think? Can they be made to think? They are superb at number-crunching, at solving intricate problems, at repetitive tasks, even at keeping appointments in order. But that “smart” phone you’re reading this on—oh yes, it’s a computer—how smart is it? Can it think?


Which raises a more fundamental question: what’s meant by “thinking”? Computers can add up a row of figures in a fraction of a second, but is that thinking? Or ask this: if your friend adds up a row of figures swiftly, is she thinking? Her mind is working, but I suspect you’ll baulk at calling that “thinking”. Because there’s something almost trivial about such a task. Surely thinking implies knowledge, understanding, creativity, intelligence. Where are those when you’re adding up numbers?


And that gives you an idea of what researchers have focused on, in trying to make computers think as humans do, in the discipline known as artificial intelligence (AI).


How will AI researchers know when a computer is thinking? Well, let’s suppose we can get it to act like your pal Kanakadurga does when she’s thinking. In particular, suppose we ask a computer questions we’d ask Kanakadurga, and it gives us answers that are indistinguishable from Kanakadurga’s. Suppose it does so consistently. “Wow,” we’d say incredulously, “it’s thinking!”



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