PORTLAND, Ore. -- Passing the Turing test--the holy grail of artificial intelligence (AI), whereby a human conversing with a computer can't tell it's not human--may now be possible in a limited way with the world's fastest supercomputer (IBM's Blue Gene), according to AI experts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. RPI is aiming to pass AI's final exam this fall, by pairing the most powerful university-based supercomputing system in the world with a new multimedia group designing a holodeck, a la Star Trek.
"We are building a knowledge base that corresponds to all of the relevant background for our synthetic character--where he went to school, what his family is like, and so on," said Selmer Bringsjord, head of Rensselaer's Cognitive Science Department and leader of the research project. "We want to engineer, from the start, a full-blown intelligent character and converse with him in an interactive environment like the holodeck from Star Trek."
Currently, Bringsjord is stocking his synthetic character will all sorts of facts, figures, family trivia and personal beliefs gleaned from what he calls his "full-time guinea pig," a graduate student that has agreed to bare all for his synthetic doppelganger. The synthetic character will be able to converse with other human-controlled avatars about his educational and family history, his personal pastimes, and even his feelings and beliefs.
"This synthetic person based on our mathematical theory will carry on a conversation about himself, including his own mental states and the mental states of others," said Bringsjord. "Our artificial intelligence algorithm is now making this possible, but we need a supercomputer to get real-time performance."
The Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) is donating the supercomputer time this fall, when the Turing-test demonstration will open along with RPI's new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). There, the Turing test will be limited to controlling avatars in a virtual world--probably Second Life. Both the synthetic character and his human doppelganger will be operating different avatars. If the human-operators can't tell who the RPI synthetic character is, then it passes the Turing test
The key to the realism of RPI's synthetic characters, according to Bringsjord, is that RPI is modeling the mental states of others--in particular, one's beliefs about others' mental states.
"Our synthetic characters have correlates of the mental states experienced by all humans," said Bringsjord. "That's how we plan to pass this limited version of the Turing test."
Mimicking the behavior of a human-controlled avatar in a virtual world like Second Life is possible, according to Bringsjord, if you craft the necessary algorithms carefully and run them on the world's fastest supercomputer. Bringsjord's synthetic-character software runs on the supercomputers at CCNI, which together provide more than 100 teraflops, including a massively parallel IBM Blue Gene supercomputer (the title-holder to world's fastest supercomputer), a Linux cluster-supercomputer, and an Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processor-based cluster supercomputer.