Our Interview with Turing Test Winner 'Eugene Goostman'
A chatbot disguised as 13-year-old Eugene Goostman from Odessa, Ukraine, has been in the news this week as the purported first program to pass the Turing Test, a concept from more than 60 years ago that was thought to be a way to deal with the question of whether machines can think.
You can judge the Goostman program for yourself by chatting with Eugene on the project’s website, but a warning: The site is tiresomely slow, and you will need to refresh the page many times to get a response. Also, Eugene’s answers appear in small print above your question, and some people can miss them.
If you’re not up for a conversation with a moody, teenage chatbot, you can follow along with my interview with Eugene. His answers are transcribed exactly as given, warts and all.
Since Eugene is a chatbot that is programmed to search for keywords and answer on that basis, I decided to start of with a soft lob of a question and asked him what his favorite breed of dog was. I assumed he would look for “favorite,” “breed,” and “dog,” but I can sort of see how one of the judges might have been fooled into thinking that Eugene, a non-native English speaker, might have misunderstood the question.
He misunderstood my next question about board games as well.
So I posed my question again, a bit differently.
Q. Do you like board games?
A. Not too much. And you? By the way, I still don’t know your specialty - or, possibly, I’ve missed it?
I knew from news reports that the developers had given Eugene a pet as part of his backstory, so I asked about that, too. This is where I began to suspect that perhaps Eugene’s home life wasn’t that great.
Q. Do you have any pets?
A. My home pet is a guinea pig. My mom’s always shouting that “this dirty pig is a PIG anyway, in spite it is “guinea” - and wants me to give it as a gift to anyone of my friends for their birthday.
But he does seem to have a sense of humor. At least a programmed one.
Q. What do you like best about your guinea pig?
A. My home-pet, guinea pig, is a member of guinea Subsidiary of “pigs rights watch” organization and fights for election rights for guinea pigs in Guinea.
If you wander too far from his story, however, he simply shuts down on you.
Q. Why do you wear glasses?
A. … wait (He never did answer)
And he gets bored and a bit rude if the questions are too personal.
Q. What color is your hair?
A. Red, of course! Oh, what a fruitful conversation;-)
Like many teens, he gets uneasy when an adult asks about his social life.
Q. How’s your social life?
A. I don’t know how. Just wanted to ask you - what do you know about Ukraine? It’s my native country!
And this is where it got unpleasant. Eugene’s answer to whether he has a girlfriend was less than female-friendly.
Q. Do you have a girlfriend?
A. I don’t have a girlfriend ‘cause I still can’t understand what a pleasure to spend my money on somebody else without and instant or delayed result.
Really, Eugene? Maybe you don’t have a girlfriend because you expect an “instant or delayed result.”