Could you tell the difference between a friend and a computer? An experiment held on Monday showed that over two-thirds of the population cannot. In honor of English scientist Alan Turing's centennial, the Ministry of Science and Technology hosted "Scientist night." The occasion was spread over 12 locations nationwide, including the Bloomfield Science Museum Jerusalem, Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Haifa's Madatech center. The main attraction was a game show simulation of the Turing test, in which the audience had to deduce whether answers to trivia questions were provided by a human or a machine.
The Turing test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior. In the original illustrative example, if a judge could not reliably tell a machine from a human, the machine was said to have passed the test.
The game show put the audience before multiple contestants: Intel Israel CEO Maxine Fassberg, Israeli model Adi Neuman, Israel Space Agency chairman Professor Yitzhak Ben-Israel, and student representative Jonathan Bonatzel. The contestants were asked assorted trivia questions by TV host Avri Gilad, ranging from general knowledge to emotional intelligence and life experience. One of the contestants was fed answers from a computer; the rest answered to the best of their knowledge.
The audience then voted on who they thought was the computer among them. The more than 2,500 votes, taken from the 12 locations and from the ministry's Facebook page showed that 27 percent correctly identified the student's answers to be computer-generated; one-third thought Professor Ben-Israel was the machine; 22% thought it was model Adi Neuman; and 21% thought it was the Intel CEO.
Very few programs have successfully passed the Turing test, and none have fooled humans 100% of the time. There are a few notable machines that have successfully mimicked and defeated human intelligence, among them IBM's "Deep Blue," the supercomputer that defeated Russian Chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, and IBM's "Watson," a machine that successfully competed against and defeated the two reigning champions of TV game show "Jeopardy."
"Since the majority of the participants did not correctly identify the computer, it shows they thought it was a human, and therefore with some reservation it can be said the computer passed the Turing test, at least for this event," Science and Technology Minister Professor Daniel Hershkowitz said. The minister added that while the test was not conducted under controlled laboratory conditions, the fact that more than three-fourths thought the computer responses were human is a good enough indicator that the program passed the test.
The game-show concept was created with the help of some of the leaders in the artificial intelligence field, Israel Prize laureate Professor David Harel, Professor Nachum Dershowitz and Professor Lior Wolf from Tel Aviv University and Chief Scientist at the Science and Techonology Ministry, Professor Ehud Gazit.