Can machines think?

Humans have pondered this question since the times of the ancient Greeks, and the Myth of bronze automaton Talos — forged by the god Hephaestus to protect the island of Crete — says Ray Kurzweil in his timely and mind-bending new book, “The Singularity is Nearer: When We Merge with AI.” 

But it wasn’t until 20th-century computer scientist Alan Turing came along that this philosophical question became something we could test empirically.

Turing’s “imitation game” — now known as the Turing Test — sought to determine whether a machine could perform the same tasks as a human brain.

If the machine successfully fooled the tester into believing they were speaking to a person — rather than a computer — the machine was said to have “passed the test.”

In the decades since, the Turing Test has acted as a North Star for computer programmers who have tried, and largely failed, to build machines that could pass the test — until now.

Building off of his seminal 2005 work, “The Singularity is Near,” which first explored the potential for man and machine to merge – Kurzweil’s latest argues, convincingly, that artificial intelligence has already crossed the Rubicon.

He writes that AI is now exceeding the human brain at several cognitive tasks and that it will eventually do all things far better than even the most expert humans.

These new machines can learn, reason, plan and act with intention, and they are becoming far smarter far faster than most people, save Kurzweil, could have predicted.

Soon, he forecasts, they will be indistinguishable from human brains, before accelerating past them in nearly every way.

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