When you call an 800 number for technical support these days, there are basically two probable scenarios. In the first, you get a guy with a heavy Indian accent who introduces himself as George, is annoyingly polite, and leads you through a canned flowchart of question-answer decision points that even a machine could manage. The second possibility is a machine – a smooth, voice-recognition avatar that is annoyingly polite, and leads you through that same canned flowchart. If you can’t tell the difference, just ask “How is the weather today in Mumbai?”
Some 65 years ago, computer scientist Alan Turing anticipated problems like this, and developed the test that bears his name. Recently, a so-called “Chat-Bot” known as Eugene Goostman passed Turing’s exam with a 5-minute conversation that convinced 1/3 of a panel of judges that it was a real person. Setting aside the question of how 33% could be a passing grade, it is significant that we may be approaching the point where humans and machines can’t be distinguished one from the other. To judge this for yourself, go to princetonai.com and chat up Goostman.