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True AI?

A computer programme succeeded in convincing humans it was a 13-year-old boy in simulated conversations. This amounts to passing what is called the Turing test.

The programme called „Eugene Goostman“ pretended to be a 13-year-old boy (of that very name). It was created by Russian-born Vladimir Veselov, who lives in the United States, and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko, who lives in Russia.

The test was devised in 1950 by Alan Turing, a genius mathematician and computer pioneer. The idea of the test is really simple: if you cannot tell that you are dealing with a machine, then you should accept that the machine is „thinking“. Turing explicitly refused to analyse what “thinking” meant at a deeper level.

In this sense, some scientists have called the news a “PR stunt (1) for a mediocre university”, arguing that the only new thing about the programme was a larger database of predefined answers.

The testing took place to mark the 60th anniversary of the death of Turing, who was a critical member of the British codebreaking team that succeeded in deciphering (2) the German secret code in World War Two. Arguably, he had substantially helped the Allies to win the war and saved many thousands of lives.

Instead of being hailed (3) a hero, though, Turing was persecuted for his homosexuality. In 1952 he was convicted of gross indecency (4) with a 19-year-old Manchester man and chemically castrated. He died from cyanide poisoning two years later; in what presumably was a suicide.

Last year Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon.



  1. Who is, according to the article, Eugene Goostman?
  2. According to the article, of what does the Turing test consist?
  3. What does the acronym AI stand for?
  4. How was, according to the article, Alan Turing involved in World War 2?
  5. Why did Turing have to face criminal charges?
  6. Is he still regarded as a criminal?
  7. What do you think will be the impact of computers that are really good at pretending they are real people?
  8. Would you consider befriending an intelligent computer?


stunt (1) – something that is done to attract people’s attention, especially in advertising or politics

decipher (2) – to change a message written in a code into ordinary language so that you can read it

hail (3) – to describe someone or something as being very good

indecency (4) – behaviour that is sexually offensive


You can find additional explanation and more examples to help you understand and use English words and phrases at https://dictionary.reference.com, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/, https://www.merriam-webster.com/ or https://www.ldoceonline.com/