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!”
This is a picture I took 7 days after having Bilateral Inguinal Hernia Surgey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This week we start our discussion with a riddle:
A: One is a crippling ailment that makes you want to kill yourself to somehow stop the pain and misery. And the other is an inguinal hernia.
Therefore, you will forgive me for having tremendous feelings of schadenfreude whenever something bad happens to Citibank. Every time I read a headline such as: “Citibank to lay off several million employees as part of restructuring efforts” my heart leaps for joy hoping that these millions include everybody in their Indian operations.
Mind you, this is nothing personal. I am sure most of the people working for Citibank in India are perfectly harmless, hardworking types. So, if you feel outraged by my blanket hatred, feel free to call on my phone number, enter your TPin, followed by the square root
of your QPin. Sorry, all our columnists are busy. Your estimated wait time is “Ha ha. Go die.”