The Alan Turing
Want to come over to Manchester for a bit of live crypto stuff, the prize ceremony and an opportunity to meet the organisers?
Then sign up!
Ellie had arrived bright and early at the University of Manchester's Science Park. "I'm so lucky," she thought. "My first day of a dream work experience place at EKA-labs! I'm sure thousands of pupils applied, but they picked me!"
As she waited in reception, Ellie flicked through the copious promotional material. 'EKA-labs to unveil thinking computer!' read one, `UK researchers in AI breakthrough!' read another, `Manchester: 2016 European City of Science!' read a third. Engrossed in reading about EKA-labs work on artificial intelligence Ellie didn't notice the woman in a white lab coat striding over.
"Hello. You must be Ellie. I'm Professor Eliza Weizenbaum, the Head of EKA-labs," the woman said. "Please follow me," she added as she turned and marched back towards the labs.
"We're building a supercomputer," explained Eliza. "One that's specifically designed to pass the Turing Test: a test that measures a computer's ability to exhibit human behaviour. Have you heard of it?" Ellie shook her head and Eliza went on to explain that the test was proposed by Alan Turing in 1950. If a human holding a conversation with a computer cannot tell whether they are speaking to a computer or another human then the computer passes the test and can be thought of as `intelligent'. "Of course," whispered Eliza, "it's not clear that some of my colleagues would pass the Turing test!" She laughed. "A joke!"
The lab was a hive of activity: some scientists were pulling apart circuit boards, others were staring at computer screens and furiously keying in code. In the centre of the room was a large monitor and what appeared to be an oversized PC case, with a glowing red light at the front.
"Meet Geshtu, our supercomputer", said Eliza. "As part of the 2016 European City of Science events ... you do know that Manchester is the 2016 European City of Science don't you?" This time Ellie nodded vigorously. "Good. As I was saying", Eliza continued, "the University of Manchester will host CoSAIM - City of Science: Artificial Intelligence at Manchester. It's going to be the world's largest ever event dedicated to artificial intelligence; all the most important research labs and technology companies will be there. One of the events is a competition to create a machine that can pass the Turing Test. EKA-labs will win. Geshtu must be the first computer to pass the Turing Test." She peered over her glasses at Ellie. "We've got a huge amount of work to do", she said.
In one corner, Ellie noticed two people deep in conversation. "This is Professor Kenneth Parry and Professor Alice Loebner," said Eliza, as she introduced them to Ellie. "My two deputies. They have ultimate responsibility to ensure that Geshtu will work on time." She gave them a penetrating stare. "And if it doesn't, then there will be consequences," she added gravely.
"It's not fair!" said Mike, as he sat in the café, nursing his fruit juice and cake. "Why does Ellie get to work at EKA-labs and not me? We've always done things together!" he said, as he thought back to the adventures that he and Ellie had shared in the past.
"Well they could only take one student," said Barquith, an old friend who had been involved in many of Mike and Ellie's previous exploits. Mike continued to look downcast. "If it makes you feel any better, she's probably having to work very hard. EKA-labs are due to exhibit at CoSAIM in just two months time. Let's have a look at what they're going to present," said Barquith as he opened up his tablet. "A-ha. Here's a report about their work," he said, swiping quickly through websites. "900 petaflops... over half a million nodes... a hundred million cores... a neural network approach..."
Barquith put his tablet down. "I don't believe any of this. EKA-labs are making claims that can't possibly be correct. I think we should let Ellie know. Maybe she can find out what's really going on."
"But EKA-lab's security is so tight," said Mike. "How can we send a message to her that they won't be able to intercept?"
It was late in the afternoon. "Cleaning!" sighed Ellie to herself. "I suppose somebody has to do it, but I hope I get to spend some time with Geshtu tomorrow. Maybe I'll have one last look before I go home."
Ellie went back into the main laboratory. It was empty, apart from Kenneth and Alice who were busily swapping over components inside Geshtu. "I'm sure if Eliza..." said Kenneth under his breath to Alice. Suddenly, Ellie's phone bleeped. "Shhh!" said Alice, "did you hear that? There's someone here!". Ellie saw two pairs of accusatory eyes rise to meet hers.
"Why are you here?" demanded Alice. "Eliza may be happy to have you working here, but we're not", said Kenneth. "What are you up to?", he continued as Alice grabbed Ellie's bag.
"Look!" said Alice, waving Ellie's phone around. "She's been getting messages in code. Telling someone our secrets! Who are you working for?" she shouted.
"No-one!" cried Ellie, as she ran out of the lab, raced through the maze of corridors and then, finally, out of the building.
"I don't know what's going on at EKA-labs," she said, as she paused for breath. "And I don't have my phone. I think I can remember the first part of that code though. I wonder who it was from?"