Passing the Turing Test, but Not the Sniff Test

September 2014
By Bryan Bergeron

As I’m sure you’re aware, the program “Eugene Goostman” managed to fool 10 out of 30 judges in a subjective Turing Test. Although we can argue about whether the bar was set to low or whether the judges were actually paying attention to the answers provided by the program, it’s clear that passing the Turing Test is necessary but insufficient in approximating human intelligence.

Don’t get me wrong — a textual exchange in which a computer program mimics the pattern of a typical human is an impressive feat. However, there’s more to human intelligence than the ability to text message. For an extreme example, consider a “sniff test” in which a robot or program has to associate a fragrance with an emotion, past event, or the sex of an individual.

A necessary step would be to enable the program to sense the range of fragrances: from “fresh,” “woody,” and “ambery,” to “leathery,” and “citrus” for masculine fragrances. Then, there’s the sensor apparatus — a bionic nose of sorts — and an associative element that associates, for example, the amber-spicy scent of Old Spice with an elderly gentleman. A female or teenager wearing Old Spice should trigger some sort of cognitive dissonance alarm, in that the combination isn’t an expected pattern.

There’s also the issue of color. What should a program infer from the color and design of a dress, for instance? A little black dress might be appropriate for an evening out at a fine restaurant, but not for McDonalds. The ability to sense and make inferences from such details could be significant in tracking a suspected criminal or estimating the efficiency of a UPS delivery driver.

In robotics, parallels to human intelligence aren’t necessarily tied to speech and conversation. The ability to locate a person trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building — say, using audio, visual, and smell sensors — can easily require at least average human intelligence. I don’t know of a Turing Test for robotics, but I do know that passing the sniff test together with a minimal set of sensory and motor skills should be part of the exam.

Celebration is certainly in order. However, we should be redoubling our efforts to make robots at least a little more like humans. SV

Posted by Michael Kaudze on 08/26 at 10:16 AM


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