In 1950, Alan Turing, a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, computer scientist and philosopher, addressed the question, "Can machines think?" He did so by reformulating the question as "Can machines do what we (as thinking entities) can do?" He proposed a test -- a test inspired by a party game, known as the "Imitation Game," in which a man and a woman go into separate rooms and guests try to tell them apart by writing a series of questions and reading the typewritten answers sent back. Turing suggested an alternative formulation in which a jury asks questions of a computer and the role of the computer is to make a significant proportion of the jury believe that it is really a man.
In June of this year, a computer did exactly that. It convinced a significant number of researchers that it was a 13-year-old boy named Eugene Goostman. Some are hailing this as an obviously exciting development. Others have been quick to point out that this shouldn’t be seen as the birth of Skynet (from the Terminator series) or a HAL 9000.
It does, however, focus our attention on the questions, “What does it mean to be a human being? In what way(s) are we different from (and superior to?) computers? Are we likely to remain so?”