Students Fail Turing Test. Parents Demand School Reforms.

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Graffiti by Banksy

Great news! We’ve got more cutting-edge research from the fine folk at the County Durham College of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fine Arts.

Researchers in the Department of Computational Psychology recently undertook an experiment in which an AI programme used social media to carry on conversations with sixth-form students across England.

The initial goal of the experiment was to see if the AI, named GEB, could pass the Turing Test*. GEB was immensely successful in passing itself off as human, with none of the students detecting the ruse. However, as researchers examined GEB’s interactions with students more closely, they discovered something unexpected. In roughly 72% of cases, GEB found the students’ communications to be so basic, error-ridden, absurd, incomprehensible or, oddly enough, copious, that GEB believed those students to be “bots”, i.e. computer apps pretending to be human.

In other words, while GEB passed the Turing Test, most of the humans it was interacting with failed. The humans thought GEB was human and GEB thought the humans were computers.

Upon hearing the results, parents across England flooded politicians and newspapers with angry emails and tweets. Some complained that the Turing test was too difficult or that it should have been marked on a curve, while others demanded that schools teach their children to be more human. As one angry parent put it, “How can my son get into Cambridge if Cambridge thinks he’s not real?”

Never ones to let the opportunity for a natural experiment slip past them, the County Durham College researchers set GEB loose within this social media storm. While the research team is still working through the data, initial results suggest that parents fared even worse than their children, with 78% failing to pass as human. Strangely, however, politicians appear to have done surprisingly well, with only 13% failing the test.

As they are still crunching the numbers, the researchers were reluctant to offer an explanation for their results. But keep your eyes on this site! We’ll update you on any news from the team at County Durham College, as well as the progress of the “Real Teaching for Real Children” legislation now making its way through parliament.


*The Turing Test is named after Alan Turing, who suggested that any computer that could successfully pass itself off as human should be classified as intelligent.


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