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What should a Turing Test of the future look like?

Posted: 15 September 2017 | By Hazel Tang

This year’s Loebner Prize, the oldest Turing Test contest, not only marks the first after its founder – Dr. Hugh Loebner’s passing last December, but also a milestone for change.

As announced by the society for the study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB), the present organiser of the Loebner Prize, and reported by Access AI in June, a new protocol will be in place for the competition being held this Saturday, (09/13).

Now that smart phones are omnipresent, it seems fair, realistic, and representative of conversations in the modern world to give a chatbot the ability to access the internet and look up information whilst conversing

The new line system which replaces the old character-based system will permit messages to be conveyed as intact sentences or paragraphs. It also allows the correction of typos; enabling communication to take place in a more natural way.

Switching to a modern system

Previously, in the character-based system, the messages would appear one letter at a time, and the chatbots would type very quickly and error free, the humans masquerading as chatbots could not keep up, and this created an opportunity for judges to spot the bot.

Dr. Bertie Muller, chair of the AISB, believes that the new protocol will make the broadcasting of the competition easier to follow for the audience, and will also uphold the legacy of Dr. Hugh Loebner.

“[The new protocol] had been discussed with Dr. Hugh Loebner since AISB took over the Prize in 2014, he was very open to improvements,” Dr. Muller told Access AI.

Going digital, being representative

AISB is also venturing to allow chatbots to be connected with the internet during the contest. This had previously been forbidden, because Dr. Hugh Loebner believed that a person would not have access to the internet during any normal conversation, and for a chatbot to be able to access the internet made the competition unrealistic or unfair.

Dr. Muller hopes that the Loebner Prize in the coming years will also be an education channel to teach the ethics of Artificial Intelligence

However, now that smart phones are omnipresent, it seems fair, realistic, and representative of conversations in the modern world to give a chatbot the ability to access the internet and look up information whilst conversing.

“Although [access to the internet] does not account to part of a communication, there is a possibility that technology will evolve to a point whereby we are gaining access to the internet which is not obvious to your communication partner. So this is something which can be shaped for the future, to allow the chatbots to consult information on the internet” said Dr. Muller.

Continuing a legacy

Furthermore, Dr. Muller hopes that the Loebner Prize in the coming years will also be an education channel to teach the ethics of Artificial Intelligence, for example: when must a business explicitly clarify that a user is speaking to a robot and not a human?

“Human beings should not be made to believe that they are talking to a person when it is actually a chatbot,” Dr. Muller told us.

Whilst a commemorative speech will be made at the start or closing of the contest, no concrete plan has been put forward to remember Dr. Hugh Loebner. This is largely due to the complete withdrawal of funding from their sponsor.

The 27th Loebner Prize will take place at Bletchley Park this Saturday (16th September).

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