“Artificial intelligence is wonderful. I told my computer that today is my birthday, and it said I needed an upgrade.” — Uncredited greeting card quote
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“You ever hear of the Turing Test,” Lou asked? “No, I haven’t,” I replied.
The question arose as I attempted to purchase a copy of Louis Antonelli’s debut science fiction novel, Another Girl, Another Planet. Lou is a newspaper editor by day and a science fiction writer other times. He has authored 113 short stories published in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, India and Portugal, and his work has garnered nominations for awards by a number of science fiction writer’s associations.
Paying Lou should have been easy, but the deal went South when I tried to use PayPal. Actually, groundwork was laid two years ago when I opened the account. For reasons unknown and unnoticed, until I began getting email greeting me, “Hello Aldridge Aldridge,” the account employed my last name as both first and last.
PayPal for online purchases with the unintentional alias worked without a hitch. However, selecting “cash” prompted the question, “Is Aldridge Aldridge your legal name?” Clicking “no” allowed minor corrections, two characters or less. Any further change was an artificial intelligence assumption that a “legal” name change was required necessitating a driver’s license, credit card statement, etc. All of this is accomplished lacking real-person intelligence. Translation: This is going to take a while.
Explaining to Lou the hassle I’d run into, I promised him one of those antiquated forms of payment, a check. Then added, “As I was dealing with PayPal trying to order a book titled Another Girl, Another Planet, I saw some strange irony that trying to get something done online can be like dealing with another person from another planet.”
This prompted Lou’s earlier question about the Turing Test, and his answer: “(Alan) Turing said (in 1950) the goal of computer science would be to come up with a machine or program that, if you are communicating with it via text or voice (not in person), you couldn’t tell that you weren’t communicating with a real person. Ever since then, every time someone invents a system to automatically communicate with people, they say they’re trying to beat the Turing Test.”
Wikipedia adds: “Since Turing first introduced his test, it has…become an important concept in the philosophy of artificial intelligence. Also known as AI.”
Book order done and back to PayPal, I uploaded required documentation asking simply for a correction of the first-name error. Some form of intelligence, I’m betting artificial, determined I needed an automated reply covering everything I already knew and had already done. Thinking I could outsmart their AI with a series of two-character changes to accomplish the correction proved to be a fail. It did however, prompt a real person response—a message that my name was successfully updated to Ledridge Aldridge. How ironic. Real-person intelligence intervened to foil my AI work-around. Happy to discover real-person intelligence, however, I responded with a recap of what needed to happen. Update: As of this writing, I’ve had no further response from PayPal intelligence, real-person or artificial. And, I also remain known in PayPal circles as Ledridge Aldridge.
Personally, I don’t think artificial intelligence will ever reach the point we cannot discern AI from human intelligence. I know, because I asked Siri, and she said so. She also knows about the Turing Test.