(Credit: Vladimir Veselov and Eugene Demchenko)
The Turing Test was passed for the first time by a chatbot called “Eugene Goostman” on Saturday by convincing 33% of the human judges that it was human, according to Professor Kevin Warwick, a Visiting Professor at the University of Reading and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at Coventry University, in a statement.
The Turing Test, proposed by mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing in a 1950 paper, investigates whether people can detect if they are talking to machines — in this case, a chatbot simulating a 13-year-old boy — or humans. If a computer is mistaken for a human more than 30% of the time during a series of five minute keyboard conversations it passes the test.
Beyond that, the test design and protocols are not precisely defined, including the knowledge domain of the bot (a 13-year-old would not have to show as much knowledge as an adult, Eugene’s creator Vladimir Veselov points out), the competence of judges, and other factors. The “Turing Test” words have been applied to similar competitions around the world, Warwick notes.
“However, this event involved the most simultaneous comparison tests than ever before, was independently verified and, crucially, the conversations were unrestricted. A true Turing Test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations. We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing’s Test was passed for the first time on Saturday.
The test was staged during Turing Test 2014 held at the Royal Society in London on the 60th anniversary of Turing’s death, and produced by the University of Reading in partnership with RoboLaw, an EU-funded organization examining the regulation of emerging robotic technologies. The Eugene software was developed in Saint Petersburg, Russia by Veselov, Eugene Demchenko, and Sergey Ulasen.
Among the judges tasked with separating the human and computer participants were the actor Robert Llewellyn, who played robot Kryten in the sci-fi comedy TV series Red Dwarf, and Lord Sharkey, who led the successful campaign for Alan Turing’s posthumous pardon last year.
“Of course the Test has implications for society today,” said Warwick. “Having a computer that can trick a human into thinking that someone, or even something, is a person we trust is a wake-up call to cybercrime. The Turing Test is a vital tool for combating that threat. It is important to understand more fully how online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true…when in fact it is not.”
A related Turing Test event, the 2014 Loebner Prize Competition, will be held Nov. 14, 2014 in Bletchley Park, UK, the former central site of the United Kingdom’s Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS).
Current computing is based on binary logic — zeroes and ones — also called Boolean computing, but a new type of computing architecture stores information in the frequencies and phases of periodic signals and could work more like the human brain using a fraction of the energy necessary for today’s computers, according to a team of engineers.
Vanadium dioxide is called a “wacky oxide” because it transitions from a conducting metal to an insulating semiconductor and vice versa with the addition of a small amount of heat or electrical current. A device created by electrical engineers at Penn State uses a thin film of vanadium oxide on a titanium dioxide substrate to create an oscillating switch.
Using a standard electrical engineering trick, Nikhil Shukla, graduate student in electrical engineering, added a series resistor to the oxide device to stabilize oscillations over billions of cycles. When Shukla added a second similar oscillating system, he discovered that, over time, the two devices began to oscillate in unison. This coupled system could provide the basis for non-Boolean computing. Shukla worked with Suman Datta, professor of electrical engineering, and co-advisor Roman Engel-Herbert, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, Penn State. They reported their results today (May 14) in Scientific Reports.
“It’s called a small-world network,” explained Shukla. “You see it in lots of biological systems, such as certain species of fireflies. The males will flash randomly, but then for some unknown reason the flashes synchronize over time.”
The brain is also a small-world network of closely clustered nodes that evolved for more efficient information processing.
“Biological synchronization is everywhere,” added Datta. “We wanted to use it for a different kind of computing called associative processing, which is an analog rather than digital way to compute.”
An array of oscillators can store patterns — for instance, the color of someone’s hair, their height and skin texture. If a second area of oscillators has the same pattern, they will begin to synchronize, and the degree of match can be read out.
“They are doing this sort of thing already digitally, but it consumes tons of energy and lots of transistors,” Datta said.
Datta is collaborating with Vijay Narayanan, professor of computer science and engineering, Penn State, in exploring the use of these coupled oscillations to solve visual recognition problems more efficiently than existing embedded vision processors.
Shukla and Datta called on the expertise of Cornell University materials scientist Darrell Schlom to make the vanadium dioxide thin film, which has extremely high quality similar to single crystal silicon. Arijit Raychowdhury, computer engineer, and Abhinav Parihar graduate student, both of Georgia Tech, mathematically simulated the nonlinear dynamics of coupled phase transitions in the vanadium dioxide devices. Parihar created a short video simulation of the transitions, which occur at a rate close to a million times per second, to show the way the oscillations synchronize. Venkatraman Gopalan, professor of materials science and engineering, Penn State, used the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory to visually characterize the structural changes occurring in the oxide thin film in the midst of the oscillations.
Datta believes it will take seven to 10 years to scale up from their current network of two-three coupled oscillators to the 100 million or so closely packed oscillators required to make a neuromorphic computer chip. One of the benefits of the novel device is that it will use only about one percent of the energy of digital computing, allowing for new ways to design computers. Much work remains to determine if vanadium dioxide can be integrated into current silicon wafer technology.
“It’s a fundamental building block for a different computing paradigm that is analog rather than digital,” said Shukla.
Also contributing to this work are Eugene Freeman and Greg Stone, all of Penn State; Haidan Wen and Zhonghou Cai, Argonne National Laboratory; and Hanjong Paik, Cornell University.
The Office of Naval Research primarily supported this work. The National Science Foundation’s Expeditions in Computing Award also supported this work.
Douglas Arnold, The Ingenuity Guru, is a writer, workshop leader, and speaker on ingenuity, imagination, and creativity. His upcoming book “Ingenuity!” focuses on sparking greater innovation in the individual, workplace teams and the community. Follow him here and on Twitter @DouglasArnold