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Ubuntu Linux Passes the Turing Test

April 29, 2006

Alan Turing, who could justifiably be called the founder of computer science, wrote a paper in 1950 in which he proposed a thought experiment to test whether a machine was intelligent.

The Turing Test went like this: An inquisitor communicates via a teletype (today we would use instant messaging) with a man and a woman and attempts to determine which is which. (Whether the inquisitor is successful or not doesn't matter.) After the game goes on a while, the man is replaced by a machine, and then the game resumes. If the inquisitor is unable to detect that the substitution took place, then the machine is said to be intelligent.

(While the machine might be doing a poor job of simulating a man, with wacky responses, that also might be the man acting that way to fool the inquisitor. Women readers might even argue that such behavior would be normal for a man.)

The Turing Test is often shortened to just testing whether one can tell if the thing at the other end of the conversation is a person or a machine. That's not what Turing said, but it captures at least the general idea.

Anyway, yesterday my daughter wanted to use one of my computers to check something on the web. She always uses the Dell running Windows, at the end of the table, never the Mac in the corner position, because she knows that I'm likely to want to get to the Mac at any time.

But the Dell is really two Dells connected to one screen and keyboard via a KVM switch, and it's usually switched to the Windows machine. The other machine runs Ubuntu Linux, and usually doesn't have the screen and keyboard because I use it mostly as a server.

But yesterday the KVM was switched to Ubuntu, and I had FireFox running, full screen.

After a while my daughter called me over to see something, and I said, "Oh... you're on Linux! Didn't you notice?"

She replied, "Well, some things looked different, but I thought it was Windows."

Ubuntu Linux has passed the Turing Test!

Blog Archives

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Raw Conversion: Better Never Than Late April 24, 2008

Scanning in India by Way of California With ScanCafe February 15, 2008

How To Back Up Your Personal Computer January 30, 2008

Every Camera I've Ever Owned January 25, 2008

Sharpening JPEGs for the Web January 4, 2008

Lessons Learned From My Memory Problem December 20, 2007

Hunting Down a Mac Hardware Problem December 20, 2007

Trimming GPS Tracks With GPSTrackViewer November 13, 2007

The World's Shortest Camera Buying Guide September 22, 2007

Transporting and Storing Portable Backup Drives August 26, 2007

"The Luminous Landscape" Teaches Me to Print August 4, 2007

Creating a Google Photo Map (Revised) June 26, 2007

Sony GPS-CS1: Not Good Enough for Geotagging Photos June 24, 2007

Epson P-3000/P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewer March 10, 2007

Trying Out Infrared January 20, 2007

Stupid Designs Hold Digital Back April 1, 2006


Other, older articles



A small collection of my best photos (click the image). You can order prints, too.


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The 2004 2nd Edition, a so-called "update" of the 1985 book, which turned out, not surprisingly, to be a re-write. Covers Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD, and Darwin (Mac OS X).

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