What do you think, can you tell when you are interacting with a machine as opposed to with a human? In some occasions, this is a rather simple task. We all are positive that the device that gives us a snack in exchange for a coin is indeed a machine—and the experience is very different if the same transaction is made with a human. Sometimes, however, things get trickier. Think for example of the machines answering phones in several technical services. But ok,  so far so good: we all eventually recognise them as machines. However, is this always the case?

Back in 1950, the great Scientist Alan Turing designed a test to asses whether machines have the ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour indistinguishable from that of a human. This test, how not, it is known as the Turing test. Simply put, the goal for the machine is to “cheat” a human into thinking she is also human, based on a short chat conversation. Now, what do you think, are you sure you have never chated with a bot? If you still think so, have a look to the next video:


Impressive, right? So, this is ineludible… at some point we won’t be able tell the difference. The question is what to do about it and how to use it to our advantage. Paraphrasing Rick Dereck: Replicants are like any other machine, are either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit it IS our problem!

The project IBSEN is interested in human-machine interactions, and how we can learn from them to foster good policies, collective intelligence and healthy social interactions—among others. What we know is that humans are unique, and that trying to predict behaviours is often a synonymous of failure. However, we have also found interesting, robust patterns that help us to understand how and why we make the decisions we make. Additionally, some of these insights give us reasons to be optimistic (did you know that about a 20% of the population behaves altruistically no matter what?). If you are further interested in the topic we strongly recommend this article from FETFX, in which the project coordinator Anxo Sánchez explains his views on this.