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ChatGPT and the Turing Test: Can machines truly mimic human intelligence?

  “The question is not whether machines can think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.”…


“The question is not whether machines can think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.” – Marvin Minsky


The Turing Test is a measure of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour that cannot be distinguished from that of a human. The test was proposed by British mathematician and computer scientist, Alan Turing, in 1950. The test involves a human assessor who engages in a natural language conversation with a machine and a human participant.

The assessor does not know which is which and must determine which is the machine and which is the human based solely on their responses to questions and statements. If the assessor cannot reliably distinguish between the machine and the human, the machine is said to have passed the Turing Test.

To date, no machine has definitively passed the Turing Test. While there have been several attempts to create machines that can pass the test, none of them have been universally accepted as meeting the criteria set out by Turing. These criteria include mimicking human conversation, displaying intelligent behaviour, understanding and learning, and most importantly convincing the assessor. The most famous attempt at passing the Turing Test was the Loebner Prize, an annual competition in which chatbots compete to convince human judges that they are human. From my little search, the first competition was held in 1991, and the rules of the competition are based on Turing’s original test rules published in his paper titled: Computing Machinery and Intelligence. However, while some chatbots have come close to passing the test, none has been declared a winner.

Turing believed that if a machine could meet these criteria, it would be reasonable to say that the machine is intelligent. However, he also acknowledged that passing the Turing Test does not necessarily imply true intelligence or consciousness on the part of the machine. The test simply provides a useful benchmark for evaluating the progress of artificial intelligence research.

I consider ChatGPT to be a new phenomenon that hit the internet by storm. It is an artificial intelligence natural language model developed by OpenAI that uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like responses to natural language inputs. It is one of the most advanced and sophisticated language models available today, capable of generating coherent and contextually appropriate responses to a wide range of text-based inputs.

As an AI language model, ChatGPT is designed to generate human-like responses to the best of its abilities. It can hold conversations and provide responses that may be near indistinguishable from those of a human in some contexts, but its limitations in providing accurate responses to questions beyond 2021 and its lack of consciousness show that it cannot fully learn from current events. It is not capable of fully simulating human intelligence and consciousness and therefore can not pass the Turing Test.

Researchers and developers are continuously working to enhance ChatGPT’s abilities. While the AI language model may not pass the Turing Test today, it is possible that future versions of language models like ChatGPT could meet the criteria set out by Turing and be considered to have passed the test. However, there is an ongoing debate in the field of artificial intelligence about whether the Turing Test is the most appropriate way to measure the intelligence of machines.

The debate is open-ended. However, Andrew Ng believes that if a typical person can do a mental task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using artificial intelligence either now or in the near future.

As I write this piece, a flood of nostalgic memories rushes over me, reminding me of one of the most extraordinary lecturers I have ever had.

His name was Prince Badmos, and though he has now passed on from this world, his legacy continues to inspire me. It was under his tutelage that I was first introduced to the Turing Test, a fascinating concept. His kindness, his passion for teaching, and his unwavering commitment to his students will never be forgotten. In addition, I also lost my beloved father-in-law this week; Alhaji Mahmud Audu Bida. He was a pillar of strength to the family and a source of inspiration to all who knew him. May their beautiful souls rest in the highest levels of Jannatul Firdaus, amin. This piece is dedicated to them, with all my heart.

Dr Shafi’i Hamidu wrote in from Doha