Hugh Loebner

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Hugh Loebner (born 1941) is the maverick sponsor of the Loebner Prize, an embodiment of the Turing test. He is also an outspoken social activist for the decriminalization of prostitution.

Loebner established the Loebner Prize in 1990. He pledged to give $100,000 and a solid gold medal to the first programmer able to write a program whose communicative behavior can fool humans into thinking that the program is human. The competition is repeated annually. It was first administered by the Cambridge Center of Behavioral Studies in Massachusetts, then by Flinders University of South Australia and Dartmouth College. It is now hosted by the Science Museum of London. In artificial intelligence, the Loebner Prize is somewhat controversial; the most prominent critic, Marvin Minsky, has called it a publicity stunt that does not help the field along.

Loebner has been quite open about his visits to prostitutes. In 1994, after a campaign in New York City to arrest customers of prostitutes, he wrote an opposing letter to the New York Times, and it was published. In 1996 he authored a Manifesto of Sexual Freedom, in which he denounced the criminalization of consensual sexual acts, and asked all like minded people to join a protest on 6/9/96 (a play on the oral sex technique "sixty-nine"). In interviews he has said that he believes to be too old for the young attractive women he is interested in; they would not have sex with him were it not for the money. He has compared the oppression of prostitutes and their customers to the oppression that Alan Turing faced because of his homosexual behavior.

Loebner also likes to point out that the gold medals of the Olympic Games are not solid gold, but are made of silver with a thin gold layer on top.

Loebner holds a Ph.D. in demography from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is divorced, lives in New York City and owns a company that manufactures metal products.

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