Luca Longo: The Turing Test, Artificial Intelligence and the Human Stupidity (Transcript)

Luca Longo

Here is the full transcript of Luca Longo’s TEDx Talk: The Turing Test, Artificial Intelligence and the Human Stupidity at TEDxVicenza conference. 

Luca Longo – AI researcher

In 2016, I was awarded a prize by the National Forum for Teaching & Learning supported and sponsored by the Ministry of Education in Ireland, peculiarly named: “National Teaching Hero”. The reason for this award was my availability towards my students and my capability to create less formal and more comfortable educational environments.

Let’s imagine this place as a large university classroom. I’m used to enter the classroom, first ten minutes, when students enter and take place, I plug my computer to the speakers and turn a classical music on. I think this is the first step to build less formal and more comfortable educational environments and try to keep the attention of students at a high level.

Unfortunately, this is not always easy. In my lessons, I employ a method in use since the ancient times: storytelling! Pedagogically speaking, storytelling is a method based upon the use of narratives, aimed at transmitting knowledge to students.

I would start my lesson exactly with this method, by explaining, describing a topic on everyone’s lips nowadays: Artificial Intelligence. Like every story narrated to children, I’d like to begin my story with “Once upon a time” Second World War, 1942, United Kingdom, Bletchley Park: a mansion house in the north of London.

There was a thirty years old guy: Alan Turing. Alan graduated at King’s College, Cambridge, and he obtained a research doctorate in Logic at Princeton University, in the USA. At that time, the Germans made use of a special machine: Enigma. It was like a typewriter: the operator typed some keys, but, instead of printing those letters on a paper sheet, other letters were printed, according to an encoding mechanically set under the machine. The Germans used this machine to communicate with each other. Anybody had listened in on this sheet had in front a meaningless text. It was encrypted!

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Alan Turing was one of the leading figures at Bletchley Park: he and his team implemented a machine, the one you can see behind me, able to decipher the texts written by the German.

Due to this invention we believe that the war terminated two years earlier, saving many human lives. After the war Alan Turing continued his research in Logic and he is considered the father of Computer Science, the father of Artificial Intelligence. With his Turing machine, he formalizes the concept of computer even before the computer was actually built.

In 1950 he published a paper on the journal “Mind”: “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” where he proposed the Turing test. The question behind the Turing test is a well-defined one: Can machines think? It is at that time that Artificial Intelligence began.

Probably most of you have watched the movie “The Imitation Game”: The game of imitation, I am going to describe it to you. Let us suppose that a person is here, pressing keys on a computer keyboard, who asks, pose some questions and on the opposite side of the computer there is a machine M and an operator O. Alternately, the machine M and the operator O answer to the person P. It is said that the machine M passes the Turing test if the person P is not able to understand when the answers come from the machine and when the answers come from the operator.

This is The Imitation Game. The machine must have special features in order to pass the Turing test. It has to interpret natural language: the question asked by the person. It has to represent knowledge in order to formulate answers. It has to think in an automatic mode in order to formulate such answers. And it has to learn automatically.

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