Many people will have heard of the Turing test, even if they do not know its details - in short, it is a test of genuine artificial intelligence, measured by whether in unrestricted (typed) conversation a significant percentage of those corresponding with the machine are fooled into thinking it is human.
This event last week, organised by the University of Reading's School of Systems Engineering, appears to represent the first time in which the test can genuinely be said to have been passed. If that claim is borne out it represents an exciting landmark on the road towards true artificial intelligence.
Of course a lot of that is really good news (and it's probably just the litigator in me) but I can't help wondering how long it will be before the first AI software designer is sued for defamation or harassment on his creation's behalf! It's not quite as ridiculous a prospect as you might think (see for example, this article on Forbes earlier this year: http://www.forbes.com/sites/
"The words Turing test have been applied to similar competitions around the world. However, this event involved the most simultaneous comparison tests than ever before, was independently verified and, crucially, the conversations were unrestricted. "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 on Saturday."