AOL and ARG is the new Turing Tool

GenderGuess GameNews just in from the Alicebot listserv that Turing’s Original Imitation Game has just been played for the first time last Saturday at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, MA. The test is described by Turing in his 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence“:

It is played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B ), and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a room apart from the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman.

Human voices would give away the gender of the participants so Turing recommended written answers, ideally a ‘teleprinter’. As described in the press release, “the interrogator’s job is to determine, in the course of a five minute conversation, which of the two chatters is a man and which is a woman. As a twist, Turing said, the woman should always tell the truth and the man should always lie.”

The other twist in this Turing tale is how the test has been undertaken in the networked age. The participants could not have any idea of what the true test was and which is difficult with the pervasive knowledge of Turing and the speed of online communication. The organiser’s set about, therefore, creating a website,, that asked for participants in an online gender-guessing game. This technique of deception is not unusual, alot of human-research is conducted in this manner. However, in the age of ALG (alternate reality gaming) the use of a fictional website is interesting. The press release mentions how the organisers were quite anxious when the website went live, concerned the cover of the experiment would be blown. I’m sure any ALG or hoax-type artwork also has this danger element on behalf of the designer.

The second part of the contemporary approach to the test is also noteworthy: rather than a ‘teleprinter’ and humans in different rooms the participants chatted over AOL instant messenger. I have always favoured text-based bots for this very reason: text doesn’t give away as much as an embodied bot. The bot in the test,ALICE Silver Edition , played a lying man. Well done Alicebot!

I look forward to the results, which are currently being analysed.

4 Responses to “AOL and ARG is the new Turing Tool”

  1. 1 Mark Marino

    This would be an appropriate time to plug Barthes’ Bachelorette. These chatbots reverse the gender imitation game, by measuring, among other things, the user’s performance of gender. Regardless of whether the user claims to be a man or a woman, the bots build their own impression of the user’s gender, much as we all do during online text-based communication.

    This may also be an appropriate time to discuss Saul Traiger and other author’s assertions that in the Turing Test, the computer takes the position of the man and so must imitate the gender of a woman.

  2. 2 Mark Marino

    Another question this raises is what exactly are the conditions of the Turing Test? Do you interpret the test (on computers and humans) as letting the interrogator know that one of the two is a computer or one of them is a woman.

    This relates to chatbots because chatbots only seem to pass when they are presented without any signs that they might be computers. I believe Jeremy has an example of this he can add.

    I would argue that chatbots themselves then become something entirely different. In other words, when the user knows that they are unquestionably encountering a computer, they behave differently, particularly along the lines we discuss elsewhere.

  3. 3 Blog

    The Turing Original Imitation Game

    Il primo personaggio del quale vi abbiamo parlato ? stato Turing, da qui siamo passati a spiegarvi il suo Test.

    Il 16 Aprile 2005 al Simon’s Rock College, Cameo Wood, Melissa Leventhal and Allyson…

  1. 1 WRT: Writer Response Theory » Blog Archive » Chatbot Idol–Contesting Innovation

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