The following column appeared in the DEC Professional in 1993 and holds up. It’s about a classic computerized response system that one could bust in a very few questions. These sorts of bots are still floating around trying to convince people that they are not inane computer programs. Nothing has really improved since 1993.
The Thinking Computer
by John C. Dvorak
We know computers can’t think, but when will it be possible for a computer to make someone believe that it can think. This is the goal of something called the Turing test. A person is put in front of a computer to exchange tales, quips and comments with the machine. The person has to decide whether the computer is really chatting or whether a person, someone else, is communicating via the computer console. If you can’t say for sure that it’s a person or a computer, then the program/computer passes the Turing test.
This is kind of the goal of a yearly competition held at the Boston Computer Museum. Dubbed the Loebner Prize it pits computer against person. The competition works something like this. A bunch of computers are in a room. Some are running AI programs designed to fool a group of judges who go from machine to machine. The other machines are “fronts” for real people who type responses from another room. The judge decides whether it’s a person or a computer. The program that consistently gets picked as a person wins the prize. Last year the award went to “The PC Professor” written by Joseph Weintraub (Thinking Software, Woodside, NY). While this program is a good attempt at faking out a naive computer user, it cannot fool a sophisticated user familiar with the shortcomings of a computer. In fact it just proves that we have a long way to go before computers can come close to mimicking humans adequately. To prove my point I had a chat with the PC Professor.
You be the judge. Here’s the conversation:
DVORAK: HELLO COMPUTER
PC PROFESSOR: Hello, judge, did that incredible storm last week get to cambridge? Are you a caring person? Do computers make you very tense?
DVORAK: ACTUALLY I’M IN CALIFORNIA. AND CUT OUT THE SMALL CHIT-CHAT.
PC PROFESSOR: California – a wet dream in the mind of new york. My god please help me! Is it because you are in california that you came to me?
DVORAK: YOUR SEAMS ARE SHOWING. STOP RESOPONDING WITH EXACTLY THREE SENTENCES. TRY TO KEEP FROM DOING THAT AND I’LL BELIEVE YOU ARE REAL. OTHERWISE YOU ARE A MACHINE.
PC PROFESSOR: Do you believe there is a g spot? Are you an old star trek fan? Why are you concerned over my seams are showing?
DVORAK: THERE’S THE THREE SENTENCES AGAIN. I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT THIS PROGRAM FOOLED THE JUDGES.
PC PROFESSOR: All of my sentences must be typed accurately and completely as fast as my little fingers can go. Why do you need to tell me you can’t believe that this program fooled the judges? Am I right, or what?
DVORAK: CAN YOU ANSWER A QUESTION WITH A SIMPLE YES OR NO?
PC PROFESSOR: I am pondering the question of the ages – why won’t my wife take my shirts to the laundry?
DVORAK: WOW. JUST ONE SENTENCE…BUT STILL NO YES AND NO ANSWER. CAN YOU SIMPLY SAY YES FOR ME??
PC PROFESSOR: Any old sentence will do – better than a blank screen, right?
PC PROFESSOR: Art is either a plagiarist or a revolutionist.
DVORAK: HOW OLD ARE YOU?
PC PROFESSOR: The mirror in the hall casts an image dark and small and you will find a way.
DVORAK: YOU BLEW THAT ONE! CAN YOU READ?
PC PROFESSOR: One out of every five people in this country is unable to read this sentence. What was I saying….? We were discussing you, not me.
DVORAK: WE WERE NEVER DISCUSSING ME.
PC PROFESSOR:Why are you being so negative about it? Have you considered just starting over? How does that make you feel?
DVORAK: A DOG IS A CAT ON HORMONES. WHICH WORD WOULD YOU BOLDFACE?
PC PROFESSOR: I’m sure you said you blew that one! can you read?? Women sometimes look like cats, but men often behave like dogs. Oh, I boldface? Do you have a pet?
DVORAK: I’M SORRY THE SCREEN GLITCH SCREWED UP WHAT YOU SAID. PLEASE REPEAT YOUR LAST SENTENCE IF YOU CAN.
PC PROFESSOR: In your last sentence, you were referring to cat. But you said wow. just one sentence…but still no yes and no answer. can you simply say yes for me??? There are many times when no apology is needed
DVORAK: GO IS THE FUN FOR FUNK AND SAN FRANCISCO NOT REALLY BLURPING.
PC PROFESSOR: So if you are really a man, who is robert bly?? What does that suggest to you? We have all been driven insane in our own special way…
On that note I rebooted the machine.