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June 22, 2012

Turing Tests and the Law

Robot baby quilt top by ChelseaWa, on Flickr
June 23 marks the 100th birthday of Alan Turing. In 1950 Turing, British mathematician and computer scientist, proposed in his article Can a machine think? that it would not be too long before machines could successfully imitate a human when both human and machine submit to the same test.

In 1997 the computer Deep Blue played a famous game of chess. In 2011 the Watson computer system competed in a special round of Jeopardy! These two breakthroughs garnered quite a bit of press for the high level of the game. But did you know that millions of comparisons between human and machine happen every day in tiny little games called CAPTCHAs?

Many internet users love to hate the CAPTCHA, or the Completely Automated Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Those squiggly letters and wildly gauche backgrounds have flummoxed human users even as they try to keep automated spambots at bay. Because they are used to curtail malicious software, discussions of CAPTCHAs or "Turing Tests" appear in law review articles on a variety of topics. Ticket Sniping, (8 J. Telecomm. & High Tech. L. 243) by Avi Loewenstein, discusses an online ticket seller's use of the tool, and the legal fallout when the tool failed to prevent automated purchases. In Puzzling Logic (41 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 933) Vanessa Hackett examines CAPTCHAs in relation to constituent access to legislators.

To find articles about CAPTCHAs in the Hein Online Law Journal Library, search the Law Journal Library collection for captcha? "turing test" "logic game".

While searching for law review articles about CAPTCHAs, an interesting rabbit hole opened up: artificial intelligence and the law. Patrick Hubbard ponders personhood and artificial intelligence in Do Androids Dream (83 Temp. L. Rev. 405). Emerging online entities such as avatars, software agents, robots, and other agents are examined in the article Bridging the accountability gap: rights for new entities in the information society (11 Minn. J.L. Sci. & Tech. 497).

For further research, log in to HeinOnline or LegalTrac using your library card. If you need help check out our tutorial Accessing HeinOnline from your office or home computer, or just ask a librarian. I promise we're real humans.

Photo credits: Robot baby quilt top by ChelseaWa, on Flickr

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