Computer Program Named Eugene Passes the Turing Test

Some fascinating news in the artificial intelligence world: the Turing test was passed for the first time, ever, at The University of Reading this month. The news is all the more interesting because the test was passed with a program simulating a 13-year-old boy named Eugene:

The 65 year-old iconic Turing Test was passed for the very first time by supercomputer Eugene Goostman during Turing Test 2014 held at the renowned Royal Society in London on Saturday.

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‘Eugene’, a computer programme that simulates a 13 year old boy, was developed in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The development team includes Eugene’s creator Vladimir Veselov, who was born in Russia and now lives in the United States, and Ukrainian born Eugene Demchenko who now lives in Russia.

The Turing Test is based on 20th century mathematician and code-breaker Turing’s 1950 famous question and answer game, ‘Can Machines Think?’. The experiment investigates whether people can detect if they are talking to machines or humans. The event is particularly poignant as it took place on the 60th anniversary of Turing’s death, nearly six months after he was given a posthumous royal pardon.

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. No computer has ever achieved this, until now. Eugene managed to convince 33% of the human judges that it was human.

This historic event was organised by the University’s School of Systems Engineering in partnership with RoboLaw, an EU-funded organisation examining the regulation of emerging robotic technologies.

Professor Kevin Warwick, a Visiting Professor at the University of Reading and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at Coventry University, said: “In the field of Artificial Intelligence there is no more iconic and controversial milestone than the Turing Test, when a computer convinces a sufficient number of interrogators into believing that it is not a machine but rather is a human. It is fitting that such an important landmark has been reached at the Royal Society in London, the home of British Science and the scene of many great advances in human understanding over the centuries. This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting.

Read more: What is the Turing Test and why does it matter?

Georgia Tech Announces an Online Masters Degree in Computer Science

Major news from my alma mater, Georgia Tech, today: the university is offering an Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) for less than $7,000. The collaboration is among Georgia Tech, Udacity, and AT&T.

From the official announcement:

All OMS CS course content will be delivered via the massive open online course (MOOC) format, with enhanced support services for students enrolled in the degree program. Those students also will pay a fraction of the cost of traditional on-campus master’s programs; total tuition for the program is initially expected to be below $7,000. A pilot program, partly supported by a generous gift from AT&T, will begin in the next academic year. Initial enrollment will be limited to a few hundred students recruited from AT&T and Georgia Tech corporate affiliates. Enrollment is expected to expand gradually over the next three years.

Here is Sebastian Thrun, c0-founder of Udacity, on how this degree will revolutionize education:

I co-founded Udacity to bring the very best of higher education to everyone worldwide. With Georgia Tech, we have a partner whose computer science program is among the best in the world! And equally importantly, with AT&T, we partner with a Fortune-500 company which is relentlessly innovating in the space of digital access to information. This triumvirate of industry and academia is now teaming up to use 21st Century MOOC technology to level the playing field in computer science education. And while the degree rightfully comes with a tuition fee — after all, to achieve the very best in online education we will provide support services — the bare content will be available free of charge, available for anyone eager to learn. We are also launching non-credit certificates at a much reduced price point, to give a path to those who don’t care about Georgia Tech credit or degrees, but still want their learning results certified.

Thrun is enthusiastic about this opportunity and likes this launch to the day he proposed to his wife.

As for why CS is the first to be the first degree of its kind as a MOOC? Per the FAQs:

Computer science is defined by the ability to train and test students within a rubric of discrete, quantifiable problems and solutions. This makes computer science much more amenable to the massive-online format.

Only a matter of time until physics, math, and other STEM fields get added. Welcome to the future!

Algorithms Invading Our Lives

From this Wall Street Journal piece, we learn about the proliferation of algorithms. I am not convinced about algorithms picking out creative works (music hits and potential blockbuster movies), but I found this bit interesting:

Algorithms also have invaded areas of our lives that might seem too personal for mere automation. We are all familiar with the words “this call may be recorded for quality or training purposes.” Though that message may sometimes mean just what it says, it often means that an algorithm has been invited in for a listen.

Using only the words you say in a three-minute conversation, more than five million eavesdropping algorithms, created by a company called Mattersight, determine your personality type, what you want and how you might be most easily and quickly satisfied by the customer-service agent. The electronic psychological analysis divides people into six sorts of personalities. Steve Jobs, for instance, was a “reactions-based” person, someone who responds strongly to things: “I hate that!”

The next time you call, the algorithms, recognizing your phone number, will route you to an agent with a personality similar to your own, which results in calls that are half as long and reach happy resolutions 92% of the time, compared with 47% otherwise, according to an assessment of 1,500 customer service calls at Vodafone, the European telecom company.

What have algorithms done for you lately?