Vol. 3, Issue 5, February 15, 2005
Fizzy Tea Hits the Spot

Computer Program Matches Intelligence of Mankind, At Least in California

California's education system has long been a source of woe for policymakers and California residents alike, with the state struggling to adequately sustain a system with over 6 million students while facing crippling deficits. However, after years of serious news and heated debates, a bright side has finally been found to the state's predicament.

"I am proud to announce that IBM Almaden has succeeded with a truly historic project: the creation of a sentient, artificial intelligence," said Dr. Mark Dean, director of the Almaden Research Facility. "And we owe it all to California's years of slipshod education, paradoxically enough."

IBM says it has developed a computer program capable of passing the Turing test, which is generally regarded as the definitive determination of whether a machine can effectively simulate human behavior.

"The 'Maisy 5' has significant potential, and raises many philosophical issues as well," noted Dean. "For example, we are trying to establish whether Maisy is eligible to vote in the next election."

The test is named after Alan Turing the brilliant British mathematician. Among his many accomplishments was basic research in computing science. In 1950, in the article "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" which appeared in the philosophical journal Mind, Alan Turing asked the question "Can a Machine Think?" He answered in the affirmative, but a central question was: "If a computer could think, how could we tell?" Turing's suggestion was, that if the responses from the computer were indistinguishable from that of a human, the computer could be said to be thinking.

"Well, what's happened here is not that the computers got smarter - the people got dumber," said computer science professor Henrietta DeMarcos. "The big annual competition, the Loebner Competition, is held in New York, you see. And every year, the best programs there couldn't fool the judges into thinking they were New Yorkers. But mimicking products of the California education system is another matter altogether."

Partial transcripts of the IBM Almaden tests do indicate that the human 'controls' used as blind points of comparison with Maisy 5 exhibited a remarkable lack of knowledge about basic social concepts, were prone to frequent non-sequiturs, and in short were not capable of carrying on a convincing conversation.

"I was sure that only a poorly-designed program could be so incoherent and moronic," said one of the judges in the study, referring to one of the human participants. "I mean, they couldn't even spell right. I thought perhaps the program had a virus or something and was possibly a Microsoft project. The Maisy program seemed downright civilized and intelligent by comparison."

Maisy 5 has already attracted the attention of the Pentagon, which says it is interested in using the software in robotic soldiers currently under development.

"Frankly, we don't care if the system only looks good in comparison to California kids," said Pentagon spokesperson Charles Beringer. "Remember that we get recruits from California too. This would be a step up no matter what."

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