Turing Test for People Shows Empathy Levels
The Turing Test is made to apply to computers, to check if they're intelligent enough to pass for humans. But what happens when people face off against each other in a Turing Test? One sociologist is now getting groups of people to play a Turing Test-like game. The results show how well people understand people of different abilities, orientations and religions, the Atlantic reported.
The inspiration for famed mathematician Alan Turing's computer-intelligence test was actually originally made for people. In the 1950s, when Turing first proposed the test, men and women played something called the Imitation Game. A man and a woman would sit in one room, while an interviewer sat in another room. The interviewer asked questions that the man and woman would both answer on paper. One of the two people in the first room would represent his true gender, while the other person pretended to be the opposite gender. The interviewer had to use the two people's answers to guess which person was pretending.
In the Turing Test, Turing proposed that a machine could be said to think if an interviewer playing the Imitation Game couldn't tell which of the two hidden entities was a person and which was a computer after five minutes.
The Imitation Game doesn't work for gender anymore, as the strict gender divisions of the 1950s have since improved. Instead, sociologist Harry Collins from Cardiff University in the U.K. has asked blind and sighted people, gay and straight people, and Christian and secular people to play. (Collins asked men and women to play the Imitation Game in the 1990s and found no differences between the genders).
As it turns out, blind people are very good at pretending to be sighted and frequently fooled interviewers. That's probably because they've spent their lives navigating a world in which most people are sighted. Sighted people, on the other hand, are poor at pretending to be blind.
Straight people are better at pretending to be gay than sighted people are at pretending to be blind. The result suggests society's increasing understanding of gay and lesbian people, according to the Atlantic. Perhaps more straight people now can empathize and understand their gay peers.
Lastly, secular students were pretty poor at pretending to be Christian. That's a sign of how secular Britain has become, the Atlantic wrote.
Collins is just starting to develop this method for testing cross-cultural understanding, the Atlantic reported. His first results, however, suggest that the Turing Test works for people, just as it works for machines. Researchers are now working on ways of making the Turing Test for people quicker and more automated, so they can use the test on more people.