By Brandon Keim
One hundred years after Alan Turing was born, his eponymous test remains an elusive benchmark for artificial intelligence. Now, for the first time in decades, it’s possible to imagine a machine making the grade.
Turing was one of the 20th century’s great mathematicians, a conceptual architect of modern computing whose codebreaking played a decisive part in World War II. His test, described in a seminal dawn-of-the-computer-age paper, was deceptively simple: If a machine could pass for human in conversation, the machine could be considered intelligent.
Artificial intelligences are now ubiquitous, from GPS navigation systems and Google algorithms to automated customer service and Apple’s Siri, to say nothing of Deep Blue and Watson — but no machine has met Turing’s standard. The quest to do so, however, and the lines of research inspired by the general challenge of modeling human thought, have profoundly influenced both computer and cognitive science.