Rohit Prasad, Vice President and Head Scientist of Alexa at Amazon, writes: While Turing’s original vision continues to be inspiring, interpreting his test as the ultimate mark of AI’s progress is limited by the era when it was introduced. For one, the Turing Test all but discounts AI’s machine-like attributes of fast computation and information lookup, features that are some of modern AI’s most effective. The emphasis on tricking humans means that for an AI to pass Turing’s test, it has to inject pauses in responses to questions like, “do you know what is the cube root of 3434756?” or, “how far is Seattle from Boston?” In reality, AI knows these answers instantaneously, and pausing to make its answers sound more human isn’t the best use of its skills. Moreover, the Turing Test doesn’t take into account AI’s increasing ability to use sensors to hear, see, and feel the outside world. Instead, it’s limited simply to text.

To make AI more useful today, these systems need to accomplish our everyday tasks efficiently. If you’re asking your AI assistant to turn off your garage lights, you aren’t looking to have a dialogue. Instead, you’d want it to fulfill that request and notify you with a simple acknowledgment, “ok” or “done.” Even when you engage in an extensive dialogue with an AI assistant on a trending topic or have a story read to your child, you’d still like to know it is an AI and not a human. In fact, “fooling” users by pretending to be human poses a real risk. Imagine the dystopian possibilities, as we’ve already begun to see with bots seeding misinformation and the emergence of deep fakes. Instead of obsessing about making AIs indistinguishable from humans, our ambition should be building AIs that augment human intelligence and improve our daily lives in a way that is equitable and inclusive. A worthy underlying goal is for AIs to exhibit human-like attributes of intelligence — including common sense, self-supervision, and language proficiency — and combine machine-like efficiency such as fast searches, memory recall, and accomplishing tasks on your behalf. The end result is learning and completing a variety of tasks and adapting to novel situations, far beyond what a regular person can do.

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