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Stephen Mihm

ChatGPT Sounds Exactly Like Us. How Is That a Good Thing?

For 70 years, programmers have tried to make computers more like people. Now that they’ve succeeded, we still don’t have the secret to human consciousness.

Alexa, are you in there?

Alexa, are you in there?

Photographer: Derek Berwin/Hulton Archive

In 1950, Alan Turing, the British computer scientist who developed techniques for cracking the Enigma code during World War II, wrote an article in which he posed a seemingly absurd question: “Can machines think?”

The debut late last year of the eerily lifelike ChatGPT appeared to move us closer to an answer. Overnight, a fully formed silicon-based chatbot stepped from the digital shadows. It can craft jokes, write ad copy, debug computer code, and converse about anything and everything. This unsettling new reality is already being described as one of those “tipping points” in the history of artificial intelligence.