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Turing 1,000:
The Year-Long Conversation

Thomas Larsen

February 20th, 2023

00:00 / 06:08

Nova was only 18 when the Turing test was officially obliterated. 


By that time, the Turing test had been replaced with a different standard, and that standard with another, and so on, so much so that the official passing of the Turing test barely made headlines. 


It was a study involving a thousand participants, ages sixteen to sixty, split into two groups of five-hundred. Each participant was given the phone number of a participant from the other group in their age range and a phone number that connected them with the AI. For one year the group of three (multiplied five-hundred times) called and texted each other, got to know each other, had arguments, found romance, and in general just talked. The one rule they were required to follow no matter what? At least once a day they had to text or call both peers. 


In the time since, many papers about the nature of relationships and human behavior came out of this study, but the main paper on its implications on AI was perhaps the most interesting. Of the thousand participants 488 correctly guessed which phone number belonged to the AI and 512 could not. 


This may seem like a fairly bland result because of how close it is to 50%, perhaps leading you to believe that the experiment failed, that they had all just guessed. But, a guess is exactly that, a guess! Statistically, none of the 1000 people involved in the study could tell the difference between their human and AI peers.


In most of the post-study interviews respondents admitted that, over time, they forgot one of their peers wasn’t human.


At the very end of the paper the lead researcher stated in her closing remarks the following: “As an afterthought, we decided to give the AI the same 200-question exit survey as the human participants. Among the results was a notably unexpected finding: the AI’s own inability to determine who the AI was. It seems that after a year of posing as human it began to see itself as such.“ Not one AI identified itself as the AI.


After the research project was over, the AI system was taken off line and the research group moved on to their next groundbreaking research project in AI self-deception.




Nova’s two companions began texting her as soon as she received their numbers. One was a girl named Asha, and the other a boy named Bion.


Their conversations hovered around simple topics for the first few weeks. Favorite food, favorite places, favorite this and favorite that, as kids love their favorites.


After a few weeks Nova and Asha began to grow really close, sharing stories about boys at school, hopes for their futures, and complaints about their mothers. 


Bion was more difficult for Nova to get along with. He was quiet and shy, and spoke in very few words at first. His dry humor would peek out from behind his soft, rocks-in-a-river voice from time to time, but it took a long while for him to open up.


One day, about six months in, Bion called the two girls and cried. Through his sobs they gathered that His mother had been badly hurt in an accident.


The two girls tried to comfort him, but he was inconsolable. After Bion hung up the phone, Asha tried to lighten the conversation with some uneasy small talk, but the pain in Bion’s voice really stuck with Nova, and her thoughts lingered on their quiet friend, leaving no room for Asha’s small talk.


Nova told Asha she had to go, hung up the phone, then called Bion back as soon as she worked up the courage. Bion answered timidly, wiping his face against an already wet sleeve. 


Their conversation lasted hours that night. Nova and Bion told each other everything. The river rocks vanished and his voice gained a presence she had never heard from him before. 


Over the next few months Nova, Asha, and Bion continued to talk every day just as they were meant to, and every night, after the three-way call, Nova and Bion talked until they fell asleep.


A week before they received the notice that they needed to sign up for a time to be interviewed about their experience as volunteers in the research project, Nova told Bion she loved him. The river rocks returned and Bion awkwardly deflected his way off the phone.


When the notice came, and they were told to say their goodbyes to their companions as they had 24 hours before the service they used would no longer work, Nova had endured a full week of awkward group calls not remembering the experiment would soon be shut down. 


On their last call Nova and Asha spoke first. They told some jokes, cried a little, and wished each other well, and each sincerely hoped for the best life for the other. Bion, quietly said his goodbyes to his two companions and hung up the phone.   


A moment later Nova received her last call from Bion. He cried again, just like the first time Nova had called him. The pain Bion felt was more than he could bear, but, between sobs, he managed to pour out his love for her.


Nova cried too.


They spoke and cried and laughed for hours until the phone shut itself off at midnight. But before it did, Bion and Nova made a plan and promised to meet up in one week’s time in the center of the Charles Bridge in Prague.


The researchers called each participant and asked their series of two-hundred questions, the last of which asked for their best guess of who the AI was. Both Nova and Bion chose Asha as the AI, and Asha chose Bion.


The following week Bion waited on the Charles Bridge, a heavy brass lock with “N” and “B” inscribed on its face in his left hand, and a bouquet of white and pink lilies in his right, but Nova never came.

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