Checking in on the progress towards Artificial Intelligence

Since the birth of the digital computer in the 1940’s, we computer scientists have been trying to design software that is artificially intelligent — that exhibits human-like intelligence.

Alan Turing, one of the founding fathers of computer science, proposed the “Turing Test” to determine whether or not a computer program is actually artificially intelligence. The Turing Test works like this: if you are talking to someone in an online chat room and you can’t tell whether the entity on the other end of the wire is human or software, and if it is software, then that software passes the test and is considered to be artificially intelligent.

Let’s check in and see how we’re doing at passing the ol’ Turing Test…

First up, Microsoft.

Microsoft recently brought into the world an online “Santa bot” — an interactive chat program for kids. The idea was that you would add “northpole@live.com” to your kid’s MSN Messenger and your kid could talk to Santa Clause online. Sounds like fun.

Thanks to The Register, let’s roll the chat room transcript:

User says: Pizza

Santa says: Yum! What do you want for Christmas, User?

User says: Maybe you shouldn’t eat so much! You are quite large!

Santa says: My elves will get right on that. And what else are you wishing for this year, User?

User says: Maybe you shouldn’t eat it?

Santa says: See if you can get someone else to eat it!

User says: Eat it

Santa says: No thank you. I don’t eat things!

User says: Eat it

Santa says: See if you can get someone else to eat it!

User says: Eat it

Santa says: You want me to eat what?!? It’s fun to talk about oral sex, but I want to chat about something else…

I think I need to go take a shower.

Sadly, right after The Register broke the story, Microsoft killed Santa bot.

Next up, Russian identity theft hackers. From CNet:

A program that can mimic online flirtation and then extract personal information from its unsuspecting conversation partners is making the rounds in Russian chat forums, according to security software firm PC Tools.

The artificial intelligence of CyberLover’s automated chats is good enough that victims have a tough time distinguishing the “bot” from a real potential suitor, PC Tools said. The software can work quickly too, establishing up to 10 relationships in 30 minutes, PC Tools said. It compiles a report on every person it meets complete with name, contact information, and photos…

Among CyberLover’s creepy features is its ability to offer a range of different profiles from “romantic lover” to “sexual predator.” It can also lead victims to a “personal” Web site, which could be used to deliver malware, PC Tools said…

[PC Tools’ vice president Mike] Greene said that the perceived anonymity of the Internet has desensitized people to the fact that information disclosed in an online chat can cause real-world damage.

“People are used to not opening attachments or maybe not clicking on a link that shows up in their IM,” he said. “But this emulates a real conversation, so you more are likely to give over personal information, click on a link or send your photograph.”

If CyberLover works as described, it will qualify as one of the first computer programs ever written that is actually passing the Turing Test.

Artificial intelligence has arrived and it wants to pick your pocket.

I think it’s obvious what we have to do: link up CyberLover with Santa bot, and trigger the end of the universe.