Philosophy Word of the Day – Turing Test

Alan Turing

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“A test devised by Alan Turing in the 1950s intended to determine machine intelligence.  This test was invented by Alan M. Turing (1912-1954) and first described in his 1950 article. The basic setup of the test includes two people and the machine to be tested. One person is an interrogator, and the other person and the machine are respondents. The interrogator and respondents are all in different rooms and thus physically separated. The interrogator can only ask questions via a keyboard (e.g. a teletype or computer terminal). Both respondents attempt to convince the interrogator that they are the human respondent. Turing suggested that the test should be run for five minutes or so, but the precise length is somewhat irrelevant. This, then, is an imitation game for the machine.

“The machine is said to pass the test if the interrogator can not tell the difference between the respondents, or guesses at chance at the identity of the respondents. The machine fails the test if the interrogator can tell the difference. Turing thought that any machine which passes the test should be considered intelligent, or more precisely, should be considered to ‘think’.

“In other words, Turing proposed the test as a sufficient criterion for machine intelligence. He felt it was not a necessary condition because of the possibility that intelligent creatures could not correctly participate (for some physical reason) in the game. However, as Block (1995) points out it is possible to satisfy the Turing test with an unintelligent, physically possible machine. This means that the test does not seem to be a sufficient criterion either. If the test is neither necessary nor sufficient, perhaps it can be considered a ‘mark’ of intelligence, rather than criterial for intelligence.”

Turing, A.M. (1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind, 59, 433-560.

Block, N. (1995). Mind as the software of the brain. In D. Osherson, L. Gleitman, S. Kosslyn, E. Smith and S. Sternberg (eds). Invitation to Cognitive Science, MIT Press. [online version]

— Chris Eliasmith at Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind

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5 thoughts on “Philosophy Word of the Day – Turing Test

  1. I also believe that to be self aware is necessary to be intelligent.

    The beauty of the turing test, IMO, is that I don’t think an AI could ever pass the TT unless it was self aware, did understand what it was saying, and why. (and of course an AI like that may well refuse to take the TT, as being too humiliating and silly for words… If I asked you to pass a test before I would consider you intelligent, I don’t suppose you’d be that interested in participating, would you?)

    If an AI ever did agree to take the test, and could pass it, then I am sure we will have no doubt that it’s intelligent.

    Indeed I think we’ll have AIs that are considered intelligent long before we have AIs that consent to, and pass the TT. Indeed that latter may never happen.

  2. Hey Botogol,
    It’s good to hear from you! Yes, the Turing Test is an interesting thought experiment. I agree with you about a type of alien who we would describe as intelligent, but who couldn’t pass (or even participate in) the Turing Test for various reasons.
    I haven’t read the Block article either, so I’m not sure what the details of his argument are. But I would agree with him that an unintelligent machine could pass the Turing Test. In fact, from what I understand, Cleverbot has gotten close to convincing people it’s human. (However, I just visited the site and asked it what it thought about the debt crisis. It responded “I think it’s cool.” Still has a ways to go, I’d say.) But even if Cleverbot passes the Turing Test, I still wouldn’t agree that it is “intelligent,” since it doesn’t know what it’s saying, or why, or that it’s trying to convince humans that it’s intelligent. In that sense, I don’t believe we’ll ever create a machine that’s self-aware, which seems to me to be necessary for true intelligence.

  3. I think the point about aliens is that an extra-terrestrial who landed in a spaceship here on earth would likely find it very easy to convince us he was intelligent, but would never pass the Turing test which involves successfully passing himself off as a human being.

    So the Turing Test isn’t a defintion of intelligence. His propisition is merely that anything which COULD pass the turing test would have to be considered intelligent.

    I haven’t read Brock, is he merely asserting that an unintelligent machine that could pass the Turing Test still wouldn’t be intelligent because it was just an unintelligent machine? People often take that line. Turings assertion was that if a machine COULD pass the test, then it wouldn’t be unintelligent.

    Turing’s test is quite sublte, and quite clever, that’s whiy people still talk of it.

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