Machines that perform intelligent tasks such that we can’t tell they are computers and not humans are said to have passed the Turing test. It hasn’t really happened yet and the way to legitimate a “pass” of the Turing test is not so obvious. But machines can still do impressive things in a surprisingly low key fashion.
Buzzfeed’s Hamza Shaban has the story of the machine that made for an interesting test on one the Internet’s most trafficked sites—Reddit.
Travis Hoppe, a Reddit user and physicist, staged his own Turing test this summer in a run that lasted about 90 days. The machine suggested various stories and those were posted to his account. Four of the 50 the machine came up with went to the top of the Today I Learned (TIL) page and three of them even ended up on the front page of Reddit. Reddit is an online community that isn’t necessarily known for shrewd fact checking. But it is quite large. How did this man make a system so apparently indistinguishable from a human, not to mention get it to pique rather large interest, on several occasions, of over thousands of users on one of the biggest sites?
To start, he gave the bot a lot of data—everything on Wikipedia. Then he looked at the most popular stories (the best posts are ranked by number of upvotes) on the TIL page that were linked to related Wikipedia pieces. He got his system to pick out words and phrases that were in these top pages—a lot to do with Nazis, racism, unsolved mysteries. The machine was then directed to search all of Wikipedia for this type of ‘interesting’ content. Hoppe would write the headlines for these findings and post the stories—so to duly note, the entire process wasn’t automated.
He’s not posting with the machine at the moment—he was banned from TIL after he told everyone about it. Yet, he said, “I could have posted for the next year and they would have never known.” He also told Buzzfeed, “I feel like it’s passed the Turing Test.”
“All I did with this project is an advanced form of pattern recognition,” he added. “There’s no reason why you couldn’t train this, if you had larger computer power, and more manpower, let this loose on the real world and find new things to write about, or things that aren’t new but you could make it new news.”