Alan Richmond

The Turing Test

Alan Turing was one of the first people (probably the first) to suspect that electronic computers (in his day, ‘computers’ were people who did calculations) might one day be able to perform tasks that had previously been associated only with human mental activity, such as playing intellectual games like chess or draughts (checkers). In particular, the computer might be able to hold a decent conversation. If this were possible, could this computer be mistaken for a human? If so, Turing supposed, perhaps you should regard the computer as ‘intelligent’ in the same way as you would a human being?

After  World War 2, Alan Turing went on to work for the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), to lead the design, construction, and use of a large electronic digital computer called the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE). Turing left the (NPL) and moved to the University of Manchester, to become deputy director of the Computing Laboratory, where he wrote programs for the Manchester Automatic Digital Machine (MADAM), the computer with the largest memory capacity in the world at that time. Meanwhile Turing began to think about the relationship between computers and the mind. He championed the theory that computers eventually could be constructed that would be capable of mimicking human thought.

I Think, Therefore, I Am
Named after the famous French philosopher and mathematician Rene DesCartes, RENE is a language used for artificial intelligence. The language is being developed at the Chicago Center of Machine Politics and Programming under a grant from the Jane Byrne Victory Fund. A spokesman described the language as “Just as great as dis [sic] city of ours.” The center is very pleased with progress to date. They say they have almost succeeded in getting a VAX to think. However, sources inside the organization say that each time the machine fails to think it ceases to exist.

In 1950 he produced a paper on “Computing Machinery And Intelligence”; he invented a test that he said would prove a machine could think. This test later became known as the Turing Test. Turing was convinced that if a computer could do all mathematical operations, it could also do anything a person can do, a still highly controversial opinion. To argue for this position a criterion of intelligence was needed. Turing expressed this criterion as a test.

The Turing Test has a computer and a person with the interrogator trying to distinguish which is the computer. The interrogator asks questions via teletype so no visual identification can be made. The test is repeated with a range of people in the human position and if the number of times that repeated identification is less than pure guesswork then the machine has passed.

When the person is unable to decide whether he is talking to a computer or another person, the computer can safely be said to possess all important characteristics of intelligence. Turing was convinced that is was possible to build such a machine.

Turing Test
  • Q: Please write me a sonnnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge.
  • A: Count me out on this one. I never could write poetry.
  • Q: Add 34957 to 70764
  • A: (Pause aobut 30 seconds and then give as answer) 105621.
  • Q: Do you play chess ?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: I have K at my K1, and no other pieces. You have only K at K6 and R at R1. It is your move. What do you play?
  • A: (After a puase of 15 seconds) R-R8 mate.

Turing believed that thinking machines could be created by the year 2000. He was too optimisitic. In it’s modern form the test is conducted in a competition called The Loebner Prize.

Alan Turing’s paper was such a revolutionary piece of work because the digital computer was still very much in in it’s infancy. It probably wasn’t until 1990 when a computer came anywhere near passing the test, and to this day no computer ever has.

Turing’s papers on the subject are widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence.

Wikipedia: The Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. In the original illustrative example, a human judge engages in natural language conversations with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. The conversation is limited to a text-only channel such as a computer keyboard and screen so that the result is not dependent on the machine’s ability to render words into audio. All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The test does not check the ability to give the correct answer to questions; it checks how closely each answer resembles the answer a human would give.

The test was introduced by Alan Turing in his 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” which opens with the words: “I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?'” Because “thinking” is difficult to define, Turing chooses to “replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.” Turing’s new question is: “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?” This question, Turing believed, is one that can actually be answered. In the remainder of the paper, he argued against all the major objections to the proposition that “machines can think”.

In the years since 1950, the test has proven to be both highly influential and widely criticised, and it is an essential concept in the philosophy of artificial intelligence. His test has come to be referred to with Turing’s name.