The Turing Test Corollary: Can You Prove You Are Human?


Interesting video from the RSA called ‘A Defense of Humanity in the Age of the Computer’. Though the camerawork does look rather like a throwback to the 70s, it has some good angles on the Turing Test.

Put simply, you have a keyboard and a display. Questions come up, and you answer them, and can ask your own questions. A conversation develops. But can you tell if you are conversing with a machine or a person?

Alan Turing set out the framework for this decades ago, and predicted that a machine would be able to pass it by the year 2000. In other words, there would be a machine that would be able to fool a good proportion of people into thinking they were in dialogue with a person.

Here’s the interesting corollary though: if you were taking part in the experiment on the other side of the screen, how would you behave if you were trying to convince someone that you were a person?

The answer (ff to 9 mins in or so) is quite depressing: the person who scored most highly – ie was rated ‘most likely to be a person’ by the various participants who were put in conversation – said that their tactic was to be ‘rude, irritable, and obnoxious.’

The follow-on question then is, should programmers respond and, in pursuit of victory, make their entrant computers more miserable and curmudgeonly. It might be a nice change from the uber-positive crap we get from most website. Hello! Wow, it’s SO nice to see you! Yep, I’d LOVE to have your username and password! Ohhh… piss off, just fetch me the page, server.