By Daniel J. McLaughlin
On February 20, 1947, Alan Turing predicted the rise of artificial intelligence. The term "artificial intelligence" had not been coined during Turing's lifetime - John McCarthy would come up with it in 1956, two years after the Enigma codebreaker's tragic death. He did, however, lay out the fundamentals of what we know as artificial intelligence today.
Speaking to the London Mathematical Society, Turing declared that "what we want is a machine that can learn from experience". During his speech, he debated whether machine learning will help humans to perform better at their jobs (augmentation) or destroy the jobs (automation).
As well as showing a considerable amount of foresight 60 years ago, the mathematician concluded that the machines should not be more intelligent than humans. He said: "One must therefore not expect a machine to do a very great deal of building up of instruction tables on its own.
"No man adds very much to the body of knowledge, why should we expect more of a machine?
"Putting the same point differently, the machine must be allowed to have contact with human beings in order that it may adapt itself to their standards."
Three years later, Alan Turing posed a question he deemed "absurd": can machines think?
In his 1950 paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, he first attempted to define thinking before deciding it was too difficult. Instead, he devised the Imitation Game: a test to find out whether a computer could trick a human into thinking it is a fellow human.
This method, known as the Turing Test, is used today. The first version of the test involved no computer intelligence whatsoever. Instead, Turing explained that there were three rooms, each connected via a computer screen and a keyboard. In one room is a man, the next contains a woman, and in the third is a human judge. The judge is there to determine through the computer which one is the man. The man will attempt to offer evidence of his gender, whilst the woman attempts to trick the judge, and hope they will identify her as the man.
Turing later modified the test. Instead of a man and a woman, there was a human of either gender and a computer, whose job it is to convince the human judge at one side of a computer screen that they are human.
According to the Washington Post, for a computer to pass the test, it must trick 30 per cent of the human interrogators who converse with the computer for five minutes in a text conversation.
When Alan Turing delivered his speech to the London Mathematical Society, and wrote his paper proposing the test, he simply posed hypotheses about artificial intelligence. Over 60 years later, the theories are becoming a reality.