In 1950, in an article published in the scientific journal Mind, British Mathematician Alan Turing asked the question, "Can machines think?" He proposed a test, now known as the Turing Test, in which machines—computers—could be judged and evaluated on their "human" ability to "think" by asking them a series of idiosyncratic questions that most people can answer. His prediction: within fifty years, a computer program would be capable of mimicking human thinking to such a degree that it would fool a human interrogator more than 50% of the time. Every year since 1990, the Loebner Prize ($100,000 and an 18k gold medal) has been offered to the first computer program that can pass the Turing Test.

What Turing did not consider—and what experts in artificial intelligence have ignored—is an even weightier question: "Can humans think?" Every year since 1999, the Neuman Prize (a medal) has been offered to the first human that can pass the Neuman Test, a test designed to determine whether or not humans have the ability to think.

The most recent Neuman Prize competition took place near my home where, as judge, I administered the Neuman Test in a controlled environment by communicating anonymously (I was speaking into a microphone hidden inside a clown's head) with an equally anonymous and (presumably) "human" respondent. Here is the complete text:

Test date: May 24, 1999
Time of day: 12:21 PM (PDT)

"HUMAN": Next, please.
JUDGE: Hello. How are you?
"HUMAN": Can I take your order?
JUDGE: How are you?
"HUMAN": What?
JUDGE: How do you feel?
"HUMAN": I feel fine.
JUDGE: How does Fine feel?
"HUMAN": What do you want?
JUDGE: I want some of that old time religion. Can you name one?
"HUMAN": You want a burger?
JUDGE: How did you know I wanted a burger?
"HUMAN": One burger. With cheese?
JUDGE: Cheese? What is cheese?
"HUMAN": You want fries?
JUDGE: You tell me. Do I want fries?
"HUMAN": Is that a yes?
JUDGE: A yes is a negative no, isn't it?
"HUMAN": Small or large?
JUDGE: Which do you recommend?
"HUMAN": You get more for the money with a large.
JUDGE: Then I'd like the small. Does that make sense?
"HUMAN": Yes sir. Anything to drink?
JUDGE: If one were thirsty for knowledge, where would one go?
"HUMAN": Coke, Sprite, or Root Beer.
JUDGE: Please write me a sonnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge.
"HUMAN": What?
JUDGE: Add 34,957 to 70,764.
"HUMAN": No drink, sir?
JUDGE: Where is Ypsilanti?
"HUMAN": What?
JUDGE: Where is Ypsilanti?
"HUMAN": Okay, one burger, small fries, no drink—is that all you're having?
JUDGE: Is that all I can have?
"HUMAN": Anything else?
JUDGE: What's your favorite black-and-white movie?
"HUMAN": Huh?
JUDGE: Do you play chess?
"HUMAN": I'm sorry, I—
JUDGE: I have my king at King1, and no other pieces. You have your king at King6 and a rook at Rook1. It's your move. What do you play?
(There is a sustained honking of car horns.)
"HUMAN": I can't hear you.
JUDGE: Never mind. How much?
"HUMAN": 105,621.
JUDGE: What?
"HUMAN": The sum of 34,957 and 70,764.
"HUMAN": Your total is two ninety-nine. Pull forward, pay at the next window. Next, please.

(The next Neuman Prize competition will take place at my savings bank.)

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