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Alan Turing and colleagues working on the Ferranti Mark I Computer, 1951. Photo: SSPL/Getty Images

In 1950, Alan Turing, whose 106th birthday would have been yesterday, laid out a test that is known in popular culture today as the gold standard for evaluating AI.

What's happening now: As AI researchers notch successes in processing language, playing games, and recognizing images, some of the field's heavyweights are calling for a wider approach to creating intelligent machines and expanding how it is tested.

Several chatbots have claimed to "pass" Turing's test by convincing some proportion of human judges that they are human, too.

  • In 2014, for example, a chatbot named Eugene Goostman managed to persuade 10 out of 30 judges that it was a 13-year-old Ukranian boy.
  • But Goostman isn't truly intelligent by any stretch; it just managed to play a few tricks to convince judges that its conversational shortcomings were due to age and linguistic ability.

The Turing test captures some dimensions of human intelligence, like emotional fluency and natural language. But how else can intelligence be measured? It's a complicated question, says Jon Crowcroft from the Alan Turing Institute in London. Human intelligence encompasses intuition and common sense, which is informed by our social norms, laws — and the list goes on.

"The Turing test is reductionist — it removes consciousness, emotions and also our rich, constantly changing social structure. It leaves out a bunch of things that make humans human."
— Jon Crowcroft

Yesterday's tomorrow: Turing's experiments set off wild optimism as well as fear in the 1940s, writes Diane Proudfoot, a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and co-director of the Turing Center at ETH Zurich.

  • Turing made fun of both camps, Proudfoot writes. Mocking the fearmongers, Turing said: "A similar danger and humiliation threatens us from the possibility that we might be superseded by the pig or the rat."
  • She argues that voices promising AI-driven utopias or warning of the existential dangers of super-intelligent AI today are repeating age-old hysterias. "Turing was a voice of sanity" in the 1940s, she writes, but she says similarly moderate opinions risk being drowned out today.

Go deeper:

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Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.

Staff for retiring Senate Republicans a K Street prize

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The retirements of high-profile Senate Republicans mean a lot of experienced staffers will soon be seeking new jobs, and Washington lobbying and public affairs firms are eyeing a potential glut of top-notch talent.

Why it matters: Roy Blunt is the fifth Republican dealmaker in the Senate to announce his retirement next year. Staffers left behind who can navigate the upper chamber of Congress will be gold for the city’s influence industry.