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'Intelligent' computers put to the test, Observer October 5th, 2008

Can machines think? That was the question posed by the great mathematician Alan Turing. Half a century later six computers are about to converse with human interrogators in an experiment that will attempt to prove that the answer is yes.

At 9am next Sunday, six computer programs - 'artificial conversational entities' - will answer questions posed by human volunteers at the University of Reading in a bid to become the first recognised 'thinking' machine. If any program succeeds, it is likely to be hailed as the most significant breakthrough in artificial intelligence since the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. It could also raise profound questions about whether a computer has the potential to be 'conscious' - and if humans should have the 'right' to switch it off.

Professor Kevin Warwick, a cyberneticist at the university, said: 'I would say now that machines are conscious, but in a machine-like way, just as you see a bat or a rat is conscious like a bat or rat, which is different from a human. I think the reason Alan Turing set this game up was that maybe to him consciousness was not that important; it's more the appearance of it, and this test is an important aspect of appearance.'

Observer Article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/oct/05/artificialintelligenceai

 


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