21.10.2005 10:55 - The Man/Machine Dilemma
The Turing test is named after Dr. Alan Mathison Turing, one of the mathematicians who worked on breaking the Enigma Code. The main character in the film "Enigma", played by Dougray Scott, was heavily based on Turing, with one major exception. Turing was as gay as a barrel of monkeys on laughing-gas.
The original Turing Test was a hypothetical test for machine intelligence, and functioned thus : An independent witness would be ushered into a room containing two teletypes. One of these teletypes would be connected to another, outside the room, where someone else would be waiting. The other would be connected to a (hypothetically) cleverly-programmed computer. the witness could then attempt to carry on a normal human conversation via the teletypes, until they were sure which correspondent was the computer, and which was the real person. If the witness guessed wrongly, or could not differentiate between the computer and the human, then the computer had passed the test, and the "machine intelligence" could rightly be considered to be indistinguishable from human intelligence.
The problem with the Turing Test is this : The Turing Test can only work if there is a common language shared between the two humans in the test. If I substitute a German-speaker for the English-speaking human correspondent, knowing full-well that the witness doesn't speak a word of German, and the correspondent can't speak a word of English, then their conversation will most-likely run this way :
Witness : Hello, how are you?
Correspondent : Leider kann ich kein Englisch.
All I need to do then is to write a program which will output variations on the german for "I don't understand", with a few occasional remarks thrown in, and I've pretty much won the game, and old Al-baby (if he were alive) would be stumping up for a couple of rounds in the "Peveril of the Peak".
Modern Turing Tests are somewhat different. The most common modern Turing Test will exploit something humans can do very easily, but which computers have great difficulty with - for example, recognising text in a deliberately askew graphic. This technique is often used on blogs, to prevent automated posts by spammers. This blog now has a classic example of a Turing Test on the comments, so I don't have to keep checking my email to see if anyone has commented.
Go and have a play.
And yes, this is a cunningly-disguised excuse to get you to post.