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Mark Nelson

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

HAL Still Not Fully Baked

October 13, 2008

Most people who have studied Computer Science are well aware of the Turing Test.  This test was devised by Alan Turing to identify machines that appear to be as intelligent as a human being. The Wikipedia reference gives a nice summation:

A  human judge engages in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, each of which try to appear human; if the judge cannot reliably tell which is which, then the machine is said to pass the test.

Because the Turing Test is considered such an important one,the Loebner Prize was created - it awards $2,000 in an annual competition, and will award a $100,000 prize to the first program that passes the test.

This Year's Results

This year's competition took place October 12 a the University of Reading. The contest methodology is pretty simple. 12 volunteers enter into split-screen conversations with two actors: one is a program, one is a human.  The tester is asked after five minutes to choose which of the two is a program.

The winner was a program called Elbot , which duped three of twelve judges, for a 25% success rate. Full transcripts are available , but you will need to install a PERL script in order to view the conversation in progress.


There is obviously a lot of work that needs to be done before we have a real winner in the Turing Test. Even when a program fools 6 judges in a five minute test, we will just be scratching the surface - that's not time enough for much of a conversation. The deeper question of what it will mean is of course open for endless debate.

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