The One Word That Separates Humans From Robots in New Minimal Turing Test Isn't What You'd Expect

Wednesday, 26 September 2018 - 11:51AM
Science of Sci-Fi
Wednesday, 26 September 2018 - 11:51AM
The One Word That Separates Humans From Robots in New Minimal Turing Test Isn't What You'd Expect
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Image Credit: Pixabay
The book Everybody Poops is a fun way to teach children about the wonders of potty training, but the author may want to be update it with a new subtitle after reading about this new study. Two researchers from MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania set out to update the Turing Test, which was developed by computer scientist Alan Turing 68 years ago as a way to tell the difference between a human and a machine. To arrive at the new method, called the "Minimal Turing Test," the researchers asked nearly 1100 people to choose one word that they would use to explain their humanity, and a lot of them chose "poop."

"We proposed a new method for studying how people think about other kinds of agents, or people that belong to other social groups - essentially give one word to prove your identity," Penn researcher John McCoy explained to Digital Trends. "We asked people to give one word to prove that they're not a smart robot, and to judge the words of others. We used techniques from natural language processing to cluster the words that people gave, and modeled people's words and judgments with ideas from game theory." Participants in the initial study also chose words like "love" and other things that relate to uniquely human traits (religion, emotion, etc.) but during the second phase with a larger group, it was poop's time to shine. The researchers told the second group that the word pairings they were presented with were from humans and machines, even though they had all been submitted by humans. When ask to choose which word came from which, the word "robot" was chosen most often as a machine word, and the word "poop" was chosen more often as being from humans.



"Most of the words make sense once you see them, but they're not necessarily what I would have predicted ahead of time," said MIT's Tomer Ullman in an interview with Yahoo. "Some of the words still have us scratching our heads. That the taboo category word beat out everything else isn't something I would've bet a lot of money on before we ran the study, though it may seem obvious in retrospect."

We would think that any "smart" machine would know better to say the word robot, but maybe it's reverse psychology and that's what they want us to think? Or maybe Alan Turing was a machine and all of this is one big trick to make us feel more comfortable before the takeover. Poop.
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