It's time for the Loebner Prize, the contest to see if artificial intelligence is up to passing the Turning Test. Can a computer masquerade as a human in an online chat? Turing proposed this as a way to spot real machine intelligence more than fifty years ago, and you'd hope that some progress has been made. The winner is a German program called Jabberwock – for some reason, Alice in Wonderland style nonsense prose is a popular reference among AI workers – and it is conveniently online for us all to play with. I for one cannot wait for this technology to work: it'll make getting interviews and writing columns so much easier, as it'll never be away from its desk when the call comes in.
So I give it a go.
You:...Let's talk about SCO's Linux strategy
Bot:....Hey, great idea! Go for it!
You:...Is it a morally correct move to protect legitimate IP rights, or a cynical land grab driven by commerical desperation?
Bot:....Tough! Too bad you aren't equipped to give that question some more thought, Rupert.
That's telling me. Darn thing must be running SCO Unix. Let's try something a bit more down to earth.
You:...Should I buy a Mac or a Windows PC?
Bot:....Are you more comfortable with computers or people?
You:...Depends on the people. And the computers. Which should I buy?
Bot:....Computers are not the only things worth talking about.
Ok, ok. One final effort to demonstrate intelligence (on either side):
You:...Fancy a beer?
Bot:....This is getting repetitive. What did you say?
Clang! Game over. We'll know for sure when we've got true AI when the computer says "Yes!" to the beer, goes out in the evening, wakes up in the morning with the hangover from hell, says "Never again" and then goes out the next evening to repeat the experience.