When will Google pass the Turing Test?

I alluded to this idea last December, and it seems Larry Page has been thinking along the same lines – unsurprisingly, as Google is his company. I’m sticking with my prediction of 2013, but he seems to be hinting he thinks it will be sooner than that.

To paraphrase my previous post:

So far, you’ve seen computers in schools as things for kids to do spreadsheets or, gawdhelpus, Powerpoint presentations on. A combined typewriter and adding machine. But in fact, you already use one supercomputer regularly; it’s called Google. In future you will use many more without even thinking about it. And just how super do I mean? According to futurologist Ray Kurzweil, we can expect computer intelligence to match our own by 2013 (see graph) – just six years from now.

Try this thought-experiment. Thinks of fairly complex web search, the sort where you are not confident Google would give you the answers you need. Now imagine that Google gets a program that would allow it to write back to you and ask questions about your search, to understand it better. Plausible? Good. Now imagine that over four or five years, Google refine this program to the point where you can’t really tell whether it’s the program asking you questions, or another human being. Still plausible? Well guess what, your imaginary Google has just passed the Turing Test, the best-established benchmark for human-like intelligence in computers.

My takeaway from Larry’s presentation:

…there is less information in your DNA (about 600 MB) than in a modern operating system.

I suspect that is debatable as we still know very little about how DNA compresses information, but it is still a great start point for thinking about the issue.

What is the web, really?

If, like me, you keep thinking you’ve ‘got’ the web, only to then realise that its essence still eludes you, this little video essay is well worth four minutes of your time. It is a very witty introduction to the idea that the web is about conversation, not the static presentation of information. Everyone is spouting that these days, but Michael Wesch makes the concept really accessible.

Oh, and if you teach ICT, why not download the hi-res version and share it with your students?

(via John Battele, who also has an interview with the author)

Borrow and adapt your own online tests

The feature of Yacapaca I am proudest of is the ability to easily borrow someone else’s work and adapt it for your teaching needs. Ever since Chalkface started, teacher have been using scissors and Pritt-stick to adapt worksheets, so it makes sense that they should be able to do this with online materials too.

Perhaps I’m being impatient, but to be honest I am disappointed in the uptake of this brilliant feature. Hundreds of teachers have got into test authoring in Yacapaca, but quite often I notice they are re-inventing the wheel.

So, to show you just how easy this brilliant feature is, here are three segments from the screencasts that come with our training and support package, that cover the basics of how it’s done. Enjoy.

  1. Searching Questions screencast
  2. Building a Test screencast
  3. The Completed Test screencast

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Circus as education

I had the great privilege to spend Sunday with my friends at La Fiesta Escènica with the Circo Deros, currently touring South West Spain with their show Provoke in Venezia.

It struck me what a fantastic education the circus is for the young performers there. It’s full of excitement, adventure and romance – but at the same time absolute dedication, discipline and hard work are demanded of every member of the team.

Are we really doing the right thing pushing 90% of our youngsters down a route that is academic in form, even if not in content? Just as a thought-experiment, flip this on its head. Imagine, if you will, that after GCSEs 90% of students went into the circus for two years. Only the most introverted would be allowed the ‘second rate’ option of book learning.

What sort of society would that create? Submit your answer as a live performance of no less than 10 minutes, with video for the moderator to review later.

And speaking of video, here are my impressions of the performance itself.


Chalkface doesn’t do BETT, and as a result I missed hearing Jim Knight admit that the online SATS are never going to work would benefit from ‘evolution’ and are being binned declared non-statutory.

The Department for Education and Skills is now working with the QCA to evolve the exam into a “formative test for ongoing assessment”, rather than a statutory test. (BBC)

Just as well, my reaction would probably have got me thrown out.

Never mind, whilst RM laughs all the way to the bank, those who just want to get on with ICT assessment can still use the free Yacapaca baseline tests.

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