TechRepublic have published an interview with Hugh Loebner, originator of the Loebner Prize competition, in which he discusses the prize and the future of thinking machines.
The Loebner Prize competition is based on the Turing test. The most recent event was the 2012 competition which took place at Bletchley Park in May and of which the results are available online. In fact, the article reports, Bletchley Park may offer “a permanent home” for the competition.
In the interview, published after the most recent competition, Loebner is reported to have little enthusiasm for the event, which he continues to run “largely out of a sense of obligation”. The article explains that
Loebner’s excitement has been eroded by the burden of running the contest, but he also admits that the rate at which the contest’s chatbots have improved has been “glacial”.
It reports that “at age 70, he doesn’t expect to live to see a chatbot take the contest’s silver prize for tricking half of the judges into thinking it’s human”.
The article discusses “the calibre of entrants”, comprising “generally small groups of enthusiasts or individual hobbyists, who, understandably, have limited time and money to build a thinking machine outside of holding down a full-time job”, in a world where “a thinking machine is more likely to originate in the labs of the world’s tech giants”.
A possible explanation for the lack of progress is that the Turing Test is flawed as an achievement for researchers and technology firms to hold as an aspiration. The article remarks that Google’s Head of R&D, Peter Norvig, has
compared the Turing Test’s requirement that a machine fools a judge into thinking they are talking to a human as akin to demanding an aircraft maker constructs a plane that is indistinguishable from a bird.