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Imitating human conversation.

The challenge to computer programmers was to write software that could fool human judges into thinking they were conversing with another person rather than a computer. Last month, Joseph Weintraub of Thinking Software in Woodside, N.Y, won the contest with a quirky, wisecracking, opinionated program that meanders through a discussion of differences between men and women. His entry fooled two of eight judges into believing it was a person. Weintraub, using a different program, had also won the first competition, held in 1991.

The 1992 contest, organized by the Cambridge (Mass.) Center for Behavioral Studies, featured three computer programs selected from a larger number of entries. Knowing only that at least two terminals were controlled by people and at least two were controlled by computers, the eight judges individually spent 15 minutes at each of six computer terminals, typing in questions and viewing responses. The judges then ranked the contestants from "least human" to "most human" and drew a line showing where they believed the division between human and computer lay. Although terminals operated by people scored much higher overall than those operated by software, individual judges in a few cases mistook people for computer programs and computer programs for people.

Contest director Robert Epstein and his co-workers are now organizing the next competition, set for September. "This year, we're going to see another slight improvement in the quality of the programs;' Epstein says. Gradually, "the gap between people and computers in [this] test will get smaller and smaller."
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Title Annotation:Center for Behavioral Studies software contest
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 23, 1993
Words:250
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