Will this summer be remembered as a turning point in the story of man versus machine? On June 23, with little fanfare, a computer program came within a hair’s breadth of passing the Turing test, a kind of parlour game for evaluating machine intelligence devised by mathematician Alan Turing more than 60 years ago.
Turing proposed the test – he called it “the imitation game” – in a 1950 paper titled “Computing machinery and intelligence”. Back then, computers were very simple machines, and the field known as Artificial Intelligence (AI) was in its infancy. But already scientists and philosophers were wondering where the new technology would lead. In particular, could a machine “think”?