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London - Intelligent computers have long been a staple of science fiction.

But getting a machine to hold a convincing conversation with a human is a milestone that has never been passed – until now.

In what is considered a major scientific breakthrough a computer has passed the Turing Test by convincing people in conversation that they are speaking to a human, at least up to a point. The computer’s sophistication is considered no higher than a boy of 13.

The Turing Test is the key benchmark of artificial intelligence and was devised by British Second World War codebreaker and computing pioneer Alan Turing in 1950.

He said that if a machine is indistinguishable from a human it is “thinking”. Most computers give themselves away by being unable to answer questions that would not puzzle a child. But a computer programme called Eugene has convinced 33 percent of judges that it is human.

No computer has previously passed the Turing Test which requires 30 percent of human interrogators to be duped during a series of five-minute keyboard conversations.

Five machines were tested at the Royal Society in London to see if they could fool people into thinking they were humans during text-based conversations.

Each judge had simultaneous conversations with a human and a computer programme, and had to decide which one was the machine. Professor Kevin Warwick from the University of Reading, which organised the test on the 60th anniversary of Mr Turing’s death, said an important landmark had been reached.

He said there had been previous claims that the test was passed. But he added: “A true Turing Test does not set the questions or topics prior to the conversations. We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing’s test was passed for the first time.”

Professor Warwick said having a computer with such artificial intelligence had implications for society and would serve as a “wake-up call to cybercrime”.

The successful machine was created by Russian-born Vladimir Veselov, who lives in the US, and Ukrainian Eugene Demchenko who lives in Russia. The programme is now hosted online for anyone to talk to at - Daily Mail

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