The Turing Test is obsolete. It’s time to build a new barometer for AI

This year marks 70 years since Alan Turing published his paper introducing the concept of the Turing Test in response to the question, “Can machines think?” The test’s goal was to determine if a machine can exhibit conversational behavior indistinguishable from a human. Turing predicted that by the year 2000, an average human would have less than a 70% chance of distinguishing an AI from a human in an imitation game where who is responding—a human or an AI—is hidden from the evaluator.

Why haven’t we as an industry been able to achieve that goal, 20 years past that mark? I believe the goal put forth by Turing is not a useful one for AI scientists like myself to work toward. The Turing Test is fraught with limitations, some of which Turing himself debated in his seminal paper. With AI now ubiquitously integrated into our phones, cars, and homes, it’s become increasingly obvious that people care much more that their interactions with machines be useful, seamless and transparent—and that the concept of machines being indistinguishable from a human is out of touch. Therefore, it is time to retire the lore that has served as an inspiration for seven decades, and set a new challenge that inspires researchers and practitioners equally.


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