Reading Notes: Computing machinery and intelligence by A.M. Turing

http://www.loebner.net/Prizef/TuringArticle.html

Three questions:

  • “Can machines think?”
  • “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?”
  • “Let us fix our attention on one particular digital computer C. Is it true that by modifying this computer to have an adequate storage, suitably increasing its speed of action, and providing it with an appropriate programme, C can be made to play satisfactorily the part of A in the imitation game, the part of B being taken by a man?”

A digital computer can usually be regarded as consisting of three parts:

  • (i) Store.
  • (ii) Executive unit.
  • (iii) Control.

Options opposed to Turing’s:

  • Theological objection
    • Thinking is a function of man’s immortal soul. God has given an immortal soul to every man and woman, but not to any other animal or to machines. Hence no animal or machine can think.
  • The “Heads in the Sand” Objection
    • The consequences of machines thinking would be too dreadful. Let us hope and believe that they cannot do so.
  • The Mathematical Objection
    • There are a number of results of mathematical logic which can be used to show that there are limitations to the powers of discrete-state machines. The best known of these results is known as Godel’s theorem ( 1931 ) and shows that in any sufficiently powerful logical system statements can be formulated which can neither be proved nor disproved within the system, unless possibly the system itself is inconsistent.
    • This is the mathematical result: it is argued that it proves a disability of machines to which the human intellect is not subject.
    • The short answer to this argument is that although it is established that there are limitations to the Powers If any particular machine, it has only been stated, without any sort of proof, that no such limitations apply to the human intellect. But I do not think this view can be dismissed quite so lightly.
    • We too often give wrong answers to questions ourselves to be justified in being very pleased at such evidence of fallibility on the part of the machines. Further, our superiority can only be felt on such an occasion in relation to the one machine over which we have scored our petty triumph.
  • The Argument from Consciousness
    • This argument is very, well expressed in Professor Jefferson’s Lister Oration for 1949, from which I quote. “Not until a machine can write a sonnet or compose a concerto because of thoughts and emotions felt, and not by the chance fall of symbols, could we agree that machine equals brain-that is, not only write it but know that it had written it. No mechanism could feel (and not merely artificially signal, an easy contrivance) pleasure at its successes, grief when its valves fuse, be warmed by flattery, be made miserable by its mistakes, be charmed by sex, be angry or depressed when it cannot get what it wants.”
  • Arguments from Various Disabilities
    • These arguments take the form, “I grant you that you can make machines do all the things you have mentioned but you will never be able to make one to do X.” Numerous features X are suggested in this connexion I offer a selection:
      • Be kind, resourceful, beautiful, friendly, have initiative, have a sense of humour, tell right from wrong, make mistakes, fall in love, enjoy strawberries and cream, make some one fall in love with it, learn from experience, use words properly, be the subject of its own thought, have as much diversity of behaviour as a man, do something really new.
  • Argument from Continuity in the Nervous System
    • The nervous system is certainly not a discrete-state machine. A small error in the information about the size of a nervous impulse impinging on a neuron, may make a large difference to the size of the outgoing impulse. It may be argued that, this being so, one cannot expect to be able to mimic the behaviour of the nervous system with a discrete-state system.
    • It is true that a discrete-state machine must be different from a continuous machine. But if we adhere to the conditions of the imitation game, the interrogator will not be able to take any advantage of this difference.
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