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A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human.
Alan Turing

In computer science, a Turing Test is a computer's attempt to demonstrate human intelligence. It's a test of an AI's quality, usually by carrying through a conversation with a user by text-only chat. If the user can't reliably tell the difference between the AI and another user chatting the same way, the AI passes. At heart, the Turing Test is a machine attempting to prove it is a human. Comedic extensions of the test may include persuading the tester that the other test-ee is the AI, or that they themselves are the AI.

In the world of science fiction, this test becomes Serious Business for the machines involved. In worlds with Ridiculously-Human Robots and Artificial Humans, this test is useful for determining who is flesh and blood, and who is steel and silicon.

The test relies on the inherent differences between an AI and a real human mind. It can involve asking questions only a human being would be able to answer, such as ruminating on matters of emotion and love. It might also involve resolving paradoxes and handling concepts other machines would be unable to compute. Conversely, it can also be used to determine if a given character is NOT human, either by failing the test, or by its inverse. For example, in works with a Robot War, the Turing Test is useful in keeping the evil robot army from infiltrating the base of La Résistance and killing all humans, or it can be used to fool said robot army into letting the meatbag walk in freely.

A subtrope of Artificial Intelligence. This trope can appear at all ends of the Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence, but tends to appear at the higher end, where the 'bots will be more human-like. Those who pass the Turing Test may have undergone Mechanical Evolution, or something as simple as being struck by lightning.

Examples of Turing Test include:


Film

  • Johnny 5 receives one in the late second act of Short Circuit, proving to Newton that he is indeed alive.
  • The Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner is a Turing Test combined with a lie detector.


Literature

  • The final dialogue in Douglas Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach plays this straight and subverts it, using a heavy dose of Recursive Reality.
  • Subverted In Robert J Sawyer's WWW Trilogy, where an AI emergent from mutant web packets with a damaged time-to-life counter is proven to be intelligent on account of how it *fails* the Turing test.
  • Used in The Diamond Age by the protagonist, using poetry to determine if the interlocutor was human or not.


Newspaper Comics


Video Games

  • In the Bio Shock 2 DLC "Minerva's Den", the player character Subject Sigma's Mission Control is Charles Milton Porter, a genius scientist who actually worked with Turing in Bletchley Park prior to his invitation to Rapture. While working on Rapture's Master Computer "The Thinker", he sought to make it "think for itself" and more importantly actually mimic human personalities, in particular that of his deceased wife. He makes great strides in that regard (which prompts him to remark "If only Turing could see me now...") and eventually succeeds but eventually turns off the program because it just "isn't her". Shortly after the player learns this, he also learns that in a way, he has been part of a Turing Test all along: Sigma IS Porter and the "Porter" that has been guiding you all this time was The Thinker mimicking Porter's personality.


Web Comics

  • Act 6 of Homestuck introduces a new character who makes up an auto-responder program that is almost indistinguishable from himself, referencing the test indirectly.
    • He makes a good case for his own personhood shortly thereafter, seemingly passing the test. However he's not perfect, and is still prone to glitches.


Web Original

  • Disturbingly deconstructed here.


Western Animation

  • Inverted twice in Futurama:
    • A "reverse Turing Test" is administered when Bender has switched bodies with Amy and has to prove he's a robot.
    • In season 1's "Fear of a 'Bot Planet", Fry and Leela wind up on a planet ruled by antihuman robots, but successfully impersonate robots.

 Guard 2: Administer the test.

Guard 1: Which of the following would you prefer: A -- a puppy, B -- a flower from your sweetie, or C -- a large, properly formatted data file? Choose!

Fry: Is the puppy mechanical in any way?

Guard 1: No! It is the bad kind of puppy!

Leela: Then we'll go with that data file.

Guard 1: Correct.

Guard 2: The flower would have also been acceptable.


Real Life

  • A basic kind of Turing Test is those annoying CAPTCHA widgets to prevent spambots. The acronym stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart".
  • The test gets its name from its inventor Alan Turing, the cryptanalyst/computer scientist from World War II who broke the Nazis' Enigma code and helped lay the groundwork for modern computers.
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