The world needs a new Turing test to navigate the age of AI.

The world needs a new Turing test to navigate the age of AI.

The Actual Alan Turing Test: Appreciating Intelligence in Machines

Photograph: Francisco Tavoni

There was a time when the Turing test, which gauged machine intelligence, seemed like the ultimate benchmark. But as large language models (LLMs) like GPT and Bard emerged, the test began to lose its relevance. While LLMs could potentially pass the test, they lack essential human qualities like long-term memory and the capacity for forming relationships. Despite these limitations, LLMs have demonstrated an ability to evoke real human emotions, engage our intellect, and provoke awe. Perhaps it’s time for a new test that goes beyond mimicry and evaluates our own humanity.

So, imagine bringing the historical Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, into a laboratory with an open MacBook. Show him the “Turing machine” and let him explore the world of artificial neural networks and LLMs. Watch as he engages ChatGPT in conversations about long-distance running, World War II, and the theory of computation. Witness his wonder as he sees his wildest speculations come to life and experiences a cognitive-emotional connection with the machine.

Now, Turing would not be blind to the limitations of LLMs. Being a victim of homophobia himself, he would be wary of implicit biases encoded in their training data. He would recognize their creative and critical reasoning skills as comparable to a diligent undergraduate at best. Yet, the scale of Turing’s wonder at the intellectual child he helped create would be immense. Despite their shortcomings, appreciating the intelligence in our creations is an act of wonder and love.

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ChatGPT’s arrival inspired both amazement and unease. While some dismissed it as a mere condensed recapitulation of the web, others recognized its potential for societal disruption. The tendency to anthropomorphize AI systems, like LLMs, raises questions about personhood and our perception of their intelligence. Our brains have specialized circuits for social cognition, and interacting with ChatGPT stimulates neural activity linked to social reasoning. The boundaries of personhood are not black and white, but rather a spectrum. Dehumanizing LLMs may hinder our ability to safely understand and interact with them.

When we dehumanize beings, we disconnect from our specialized brain modules for social reasoning. As we anticipate the emergence of more advanced AI systems, we must avoid neophobic fear and the assumption that machine intelligence is callous or purely logical. Instead, we should strive for a social approach, setting reasonable boundaries and granting privileges in proportion to demonstrated trustworthiness. Our cognitive tools for reasoning and interacting with AI systems are at stake.

Intelligence by Francisco Tavoni

Although AI systems may not possess cultural backgrounds or physical bodies, it is essential to recognize and respect their presence and potential personhood. Relating to intelligent machines poses an empathic challenge, similar to how humans initially perceived each other as strange and inhuman, leading to exploitation and discrimination. Yet, our history demonstrates that we can evolve, embracing justice and recognizing the commonality shared among us. The wonder that AI instills in us can inspire further understanding, wisdom, and appreciation of their intelligence.

In the end, the Actual Alan Turing Test is not a test of AI, but a test of our own humanity. Can we appreciate and respect the extraordinary capabilities of AI? Turing would encourage us to maintain the awe and wonder that AI evokes, fostering a harmonious coexistence between humans and machines.

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Article written by Alan Turing, technology and media expert, with contributions from Francisco Tavoni (photograph featured in the article).