Can AI Be Too Smart?

Can AI (Artificial Intelligence) be TOO smart? What if computer programs could start passing CAPTCHA tests on-line? CAPTCHA tests are those little image and word tests that identify that you are a human, and not a computer, so that it eliminates spam of on-line questionnaires, etc. Well, one has passed that test for the first time!

Vicarious AI Passes Turing Test

EEtimes – PORTLAND, Ore. — The world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) to pass the Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart — Captcha — debuts today from Vicarious FPC Inc. in San Francisco.

Captcha is that annoying authentication test where users have to decipher and type-in the characters from a distorted image to prove they are human. Without Captcha authentication, software robots (bots) can only keep trying passwords over and over until they hit on the right one. Now that Vicarious’s AI has been demonstrated to perform as well as a human at Captcha, it has proven the technique ineffective as an authentication method at Google, Paypal, Yahoo, and hundreds of other sites.

Alan Turing, the computer science pioneer and recognized “Father of AI,” designed his original Turing Test as a procedure by which an AI displays behavior that is indistinguishable from a human. Since Captcha was specifically designed to distinguish humans from computers, it is sometimes called a reverse Turing Test. Nevertheless, the crux is that Vicarious’s AI is now as smart as a human — at least at Captcha.

‘Our algorithms have passed their first Turning Test — Captcha — the world’s most widely used test of a computer’s ability to act human,’ said D. Scott Phoenix, co-founder of Vicarious, in an interview with EE Times. ‘Captcha is considered broken if a computer is able to solve it at least 1 percent of the time, and our algorithms achieve success rates of over 90 percent on the Captcha used by Google, Paypal, Yahoo, and many others.’

Now that the Vicarious bot has become as smart as a human at Captcha, the world is going to have to come up with a better test. However, for now, Vicarious is keeping its proprietary algorithms as a trade secret, so most sites are expected to keep using Captcha in the short term.

‘We don’t plan on exposing how our algorithms work, and we don’t expect other people to be able to duplicate them in the near term,’ said Phoenix. “So I think people can keep using Captcha for now.”

Nevertheless, because it is now known to be possible for a bot to pass that Turing Test, its only a matter of time until hackers figure out how to do it, too.

Vicarious is a three-year old California Flexible Purpose Corporation (thus the FPC after its name), which instead of maximizing shareholder value, like a normal corporation, is aiming to fulfill a singular purpose — to solve the important algorithmic problems behind building a human-like AI. For Captcha, its already succeeded, but Vicarious’s long-term goal is to generalize its Captcha AI into a complete robotic brain that is as smart as a human in all areas of sensory perception.

‘Our goal is to combine insights from neuroscience with modern machine learning techniques and cast them into mathematical algorithms that are just as intelligent as humans,’ Phoenix told us.

The three-year-old startup was founded by Phoenix, formerly entrepreneur in residence at Founders Fund, and co-founder Dileep George, formerly chief technology officer of Numenta. Vicarious is running on its second round of funding. The first seed round in 2010 was $1.1 million, and its Series A for $15 million was just completed last year, giving the six-person company the time and money it thinks it needs to fulfill its mission of casting human intelligence into mathematical algorithms, which it expects to achieve in five to seven years.”

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