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The Turing Test

Computing Machinery and

Alan Turing

Some Theories of Mind

Substance Dualism: mind and body are differerent
substances. Mind is unextended and not subject to physical
Interactionism: mind and body interact
Occasionalism/Parallelism: mind and body dont
Property/Event Dualism
Epiphenomenalism: physical events cause mental
events but mental events dont cause anything
Property Dualism:(some) mental states are irreducibly
non-physical attributes of physical substances

Some Theories of Mind

Physicalism: mental states are identical to physical states,

in particular, brain states or, minimally, supervene upon
physical states.
(Analytical or Logical) Behaviorism: talk about
mental states should be analyzed as talk about behavior
and behavioral dispositions
The Identity Theory (Type-Physicalism): mental
states are identical to (so nothing more than) brain
Functionalism: mental states are to be characterized in
terms of their causal relations to sensory inputs,
behavioral outputs and other mental states, that is, in
terms of their functional role.




Causal closure of the



Irreducibility of psychology
The Zombie Argument
The Cartesian Essentialist

Descartes Arguments for Dualism

Essentialist Argument
It is conceivable that ones mind might exist without
ones body
Whatever is conceivable is logically possible
Therefore, it is possible ones mind might exist without
ones body

Empirical Argument
The complexity and flexibility of human behavior,
including linguistic behavior, couldnt be achieved by
mere mechanism so we need to assume some nonphysical substance as an explanation for such behavior.

The Zombie Argument

A (philosophical) zombie is a being which is a perfect
duplicate of a normal human beingincluding brain and
neural activitybut which is not conscious.
The Zombie Argument for property dualism
Zombies are conceivable (David Chalmers singing the
Zombie Blues)
Whatever is conceivable is logically possible
(Some) mental states/properties/events are not identical to
any brain states/properties/events
Note: this argument doesnt purport to establish substance
dualism or, as Descartes wished to show, that minds/persons
could exist in a disembodied state.

Problem with Cartesian Dualism

We do not need that hypothesis: complex behavior can be

explained without recourse to irreducibly non-physical states.
Contra Descartes, purely physical mechanisms can exhibit the
kind of complex, flexible behavior, including learning (or
learning) characteristic of humans.

All physical events have sufficient causes that are themselves

physical events
Physicalism is an aggressor hypothesis: we explain more and more
without recourse to non-physical events/states
Agency explanations are eliminated in favor of mechanistic
explanationsincluding explanations for agency itself.
Claims to the effect that non-physical events cause physical
events introduces an even bigger mystery: what is the

Motivation for Epiphenomenalism
All physical events have sufficient causes that are
themselves physical events
But some mental eventsqualitative states, the what-it-islike experienceseem to be irreducibly nonphysical: it
seems implausible to identify them with brain events.
Problem: intuitively some mental states cause behavior
E. g. pain causes people to wince
Moreover, part of what we mean by pain seems to involve
an association* of with characteristic behavior
*Well leave association intentionally vague

(Philosophical) Behaviorism
We want to hold that there are no irreducibly non-physical
causes of physical events
But we also need to accommodate the fact that what we
mean by terms designating mental states involves an
association with characteristic behavior.
Intuitively, theres more to some mental states: the problem
of qualia
Intuitively, there can be less to mental states: its
conceivable that one may be in a given state without even
being disposed to characteristic behavioror that one may
be disposed to uncharacteristic behavior
Dispositions arent causes so, while behaviorism associates
mental states with behavior, they still dont cause behavior.

The Identity Theory

We want to hold that there are no irreducibly nonphysical causes of physical events
But we also want to understand them as inner states
that are causally responsible for behavior

Qualia again: intuitively there is more to consciousness
than brain states
Species chauvinism: if we identify a type of mental
state, e.g. pain, with a type of brain state that is
responsible for pain in humans, e.g. the firing of C-fibers,
what do we do about non-humans who dont have the
same kind of brain states but who, we believe, can
never the less have the same kind of mental states?

What a theory of mind should do

Make sense of consciousness: The Hard Problem
Avoid commitment to irreducibly non-physical states, events or
Explain the causal role of mental states as
Effects of physical events
Causes of behavior
Causes of other mental events
Allow for multiple realizability in order to avoid species
We want to be able to ascribe the same kinds of mental states
we have to humans who may be wired differently, other
animals and, possibly to beings that dont have brains at all,
e.g. Martians, computers

What makes something a mental state of a particular type does
not depend on its internal constitution, but rather on the way it
functions, or the role it plays, in the system of which it is a
Note: function here related also to function in math sense.
Topic Neutrality: mental state concepts dont specify their
intrinsic character, whether physical or non-physicalthats a
matter for empirical investigation.
So Functionalism is in principle compatible with both
physicalism and dualism
Multiple Realizability: A single mental kind (property, state,
event) can be "realized" by many distinct physical kinds.
The same type of mental state could, in principle, be
realized by different physical (or non-physical) states
Disagreement about how liberal we should be in this regard

An Example: Pain
Were interested in analyzing or ordinary concept of pain
We understand it in terms of its causal role
As being typically produced by certain stimuli, e.g. bodily
As tending to produce certain behavior, e.g. wincing
As producing further mental states, e.g. resolving to
avoid those stimuli in the future
We recognize that different kinds of physical (of nonphysical) mechanisms may play that role
Compare to other functional concepts like can opener
We leave empirical questions to empirical investigation

The Big Questions About Functionalism

Consciousness: some mental states appear to have intrinsic,
introspectable featuresand those features seem to be essential
Inverted Qualia (see Block Inverted Earth)
The Knowledge Argument (see Jackson What Mary Didnt
Understanding: controversial whether understanding can be
reduced to the ability to mediate input and output by
manipulating symbols (see Turing Computing Machinery and
Intelligence vs. Searle on The Chinese Room

The Turing Test

Functionalism: mental states are to be characterized in

terms of their causal relations to sensory inputs, behavioral
outputs and other mental states, that is, in terms of their
functional role.

A Turing Machine can do this!

So if Functionalism is true, a machine should in principle be

able to do anything a person can do

Can a machine do whatever a person can do?

And can it meet

The Cartesian Challenge

If there were machines which bore a resemblance to our bodies and
imitated our actions as closely as possible for all practical purposes,
we should still have two very certain means of recognizing that they
were not real men. The first is that they could never use words, or
put together signs, as we do in order to declare our thoughts to
others. For we can certainly conceive of a machine so constructed
that it utters words, and even utters words that correspond to bodily
actions causing a change in its organs. But it is not conceivable
that such a machine should produce different arrangements of
words so as to give an appropriately meaningful answer to whatever
is said in its presence, as the dullest of men can do. Secondly, even
though some machines might do some things as well as we do them,
or perhaps even better, they would inevitably fail in others, which
would reveal that they are acting not from understanding, but only
from the disposition of their organs. For whereas reason is a
universal instrument, which can be used in all kinds of situations,
these organs need some particular action; hence it is for all practical
purposes impossible for a machine to have enough different organs
to make it act in all the contingencies of life in the way in which our
reason makes us act. [Descartes Discourse on Method]

What can people do that computers cant


Telling Humans and Computers Apart Automatically

A CAPTCHA is a program that protects websites against bots

by generating and grading tests that humans can pass but
current computer programs cannot. For example, humans
can read distorted text as the one shown below, but current
computer programs can't:

The term CAPTCHA (for Completely Automated Public Turing

Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) was coined in 2000
by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas Hopper and John
Langford of Carnegie Mellon University.

Empirical and Conceptual Questions

The Turing Test: Can a machine* meet the Cartesian challenge?
Use language in a way that humans do rather than merely
uttering sounds?
Exhibit the complexity and flexibility of behavior in a wide
range of areas as humans do?
What, if anything, of philosophic interest would it show if a
machine could pass the Turing Test?
Is passing the test necessary for intelligence?
Is passing the test sufficient?
* What is a machine? Arent our brains themselves

Some Chatbots
Jack the Ripper
POMO generator
Poetry generator


The Babbage Engine


Build your own Turing Machine!

A Turing machine is a theoretical computing machine invented by Alan Turing

(1937) to serve as an idealized model for mathematical calculation. A Turing
machine consists of a line of cells known as a "tape" that can be moved back
and forth, an active element known as the "head" that possesses a property
known as "state" and that can change the property known as "color" of the
active cell underneath it, and a set of instructions for how the head should
modify the active cell and move the tape (Wolfram 2002, pp. 78-81). At each
step, the machine may modify the color of the active cell, change the state of
the head, and then move the tape one unit to the left or right.
[read more in Wolfram MathWorld]

A Turing Machine is an Abstract Machine

An abstract machine is a model of a
computer system (considered either
as hardware or software) constructed
to allow a detailed and precise
analysis of how the computer system
works. Such a model usually consists
of input, output, and operations that
can be preformed (the operation set),
and so can be thought of as a
processor. An abstract machine
implemented in software is termed a
virtual machine, and one
implemented in hardware is called
simply a "machine.
[Wolfram Mathworld]
Turing Machine here: try it!
Another Turing Machine
A concrete Turing Machine

Different hardware same abstract machine

Were in the same
Were in the same
computational state!

Mental states are like computational states of computers

The same computational or mental state can be realized by
different hardware or brainware!

The Imitation Game

Turing proposes a game in which we have a person, a
machine, and an interrogatorseparated from the other person
and the machine.
The object of the game is for the interrogator to determine
which of the other two is the person, and which is the machine.
I believe that in about fifty years time, Turing wrote in 1950,
it will be possible to programme computersto make them
play the imitation game so will that an average interrogator will
not have more than 70% chan ce of making the right
identification after five minutes of questioningI believe that
at the end of the century the use of words and general
educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be
able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be
So far this hasnt happened butthere is a contest on:

The Empirical Question: Can a machine


The Loebner Prize: In 1990 Hugh Loebner agreed with The

Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies to underwrite a contest
designed to implement the Turing Test. Dr. Loebner pledged a Grand
Prize of $100,000 and a Gold Medal (solidnot gold-plated!) for the
first computer whose responses were indistinguishable from a human's.

The Conceptual (Philosophical) Question

If the meaning of the words machine and think are to be found
by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape
the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question,
Can machines think is to be sought in a statistical survey such as
a Gallup poll. But this is absurd. Instead of attempting such a
definition I shall replace the question by another, which is closely
related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.

How is the question (of whether a machine could pass the Turing
Test) related to the question of whether a machine can think?

What would it show if a machine could pass the Turing Test?

Is being able to pass the Turing Test a necessary condition on
Is being able to pass the Turing Test a sufficient condition on

The new problem has the advantage of drawing a fairly sharp line
between the physical and intellectual capacities of a man. No
engineer or chemist claims to be able to produce a material which
is indistinguishable from the human skinbut even supposing this
invention available we should feel there was little point in trying to
make a thinking machine more human by dressing it up in such
artificial flesh.
What matters for intelligenceor whatever Turing is testing for?
Does the right stuff (brain-stuff, spiritual substance, or
whatever) matter?
Does the right internal structure or pattern of inner workings
matter? If so, at what level of abstraction?
Does the right history, social role or interaction with
environment beyond interrogation and response in the Turing
Test matter?

Objections Turing Considers

1. The Theological Objection
2. The Heads in the Sand Objection
3. The Mathematical Objection
4. The Argument from
5. Arguments from Various
6. Lady Lovelaces Objection
7. Argument from Continuity in the
Nervous System
8. Argument from the Informality of
9. Argument from Extrasensory

The Theological Objection

Thinking is a function of mans immortal soul. God has
given an immortal soul to every mabn and women, but not
to any other animal or to machines. Hence no animal or
machine can think.

Turings response: God could give a machine a soul if he

wanted to

Some questions:
Zombies. On this account it would be a contingent fact
that intelligent computers (or humans) had souls
soulless zombies could perfectly simulate ensouled
humans or machines.
Are souls, if there are such things, what matter for
consciousness (vide Locke)

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.

Turing notes that theres no

real argument here.

Nevertheless, the prospect of

intelligent machines raises a
number of ethical questions

The Mathematical Objection

Gdels theoremshows that in any sufficiently powerful

logical system statements can be formulated which can
neither be proved nor disproved within the system.

Consequently there will be some questions

a machine (being essentially an automated
formal system) cannot answer.

Turing notes however that there are

questions that humans cant answer
and it could be that beyond this were
bound by the same constraint that restricts
the capacity of machines.

The Argument from Consciousness

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.
A machine that passed the Turing Test would, ipso facto, be able
to give appropriate responses to questions about poetry,
emotions, etc.
If we require more than the Turing Test as evidence of
consciousness then we have no good reason to believe that
other humans are conscious.
But we do have good reason to believe that other humans are
Therefore the Turing Test would be evidence of consciousness in
a machine if that machine could pass the test.

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 tobe kind, be resourceful, be beautiful, be friendly,
have initiative, have a sense of humor, tell right from wrong, make
mistakes, fall in love, enjoy strawberries and cream, make someone
fall in love with it, learn from experience, use words properly, be the
subject of its own thought, have as much diversity of behavior as a
man, do something really new.

It seems likely that we can construct machines that will be able to do

a great many of these thingsincluding learning and making mistakes

We should also ask whether various items on the list are requirements
for intelligence or whether were building in a species-chauvinistic
requirement that would exclude intelligent beings that arent like us

Lady Lovelaces Objection

The Analytical Engine has no pretensions to originate
anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to

But computers can surprise us and

People arent all that original anyway

Final Objections
Argument from Continuity of the Nervous System
Response: a digital machine can imitate an analogue machine
Argument from the Informality of Behaviour
Response: no reason to think human behavior is any less rulegoverned
Argument from Extrasensory Perception
Taking ESP seriously, we could find ways to rule it out by
putting competitors in a telepathy-proof room. Surely, even if
ESP were a reality it wouldnt be any more of a requirement
for intelligence than the ability to appreciate strawberries and
In fact computers can, at least learn and, unless weve
established independently that they arent intelligent, no
reason to deny that this constitutes genuine learning.

Imitation and Replication

When is imitating X replicationi.e. another instance of X

rather than mere simulation?

When does the right stuff matter:

Margerine is only simulated butter but
Walking with an artificial leg is real walking

When do the right extrinsic features, e.g. right history

Counterfeit money and art forgeries are fakes but
A copy of a file or application is the real thing

Are inputs/outputs all that matter?

Consider, for example, Ned Block's
Blockheada creature that looks just
like a human being, but that is
controlled by a game-of-life look-up
tree, i.e. by a tree that contains a
programmed response for every
discriminable input at each stage in the
creature's life. If we agree that
Blockhead is logically possible, and if we
agree that Blockhead is not intelligent
(does not have a mind, does not think),
then Blockhead is a counterexample to
the claim that the Turing Test provides a
logically sufficient condition for the
ascription of intelligence. After all,
Blockhead could be programmed with a
look-up tree that produces responses
identical with the ones that you would
give over the entire course of your life
(given the same inputs).

Objections to the Turing Test as What


Intentionality (The Chinese Room: Searle, Minds, Brains and

You cant crank semantics out of syntax: mere symbolmanipulation, however adept, doesnt create meaning or

Consciousness (The Inverted Spectrum: Block, Inverted Earth)

Neither behaviorism nor functionalism can capture the felt,
intrinsic character of phenomenal mental states, e.g. what it
is like to see red.
Semantic Externalism (Swampman: Davidson, Knowing Ones
Own Mind)
What one's words meanif they meanis determined not
merely by some internal state, but also by the causal history
of the speaker and the role he plays within his environment.

Intentionality Objection

What does CKApqrr mean? According to the syntactic rules

of the first game, Shak-A-WFF, its a WFF but when I
construct and manipulate WFFs I dont know what Im doing.

Consciousness: the Inverted Qualia

[T]he inverted spectrum argument is this: when you and I have
experiences that have the intentional content looking red, your
qualitative content is the same as the qualitative content that I
have when my experience has the intentional content of
looking green.

We use color words in the same way, make the same

inferences, and respond in the same way to the same stimuli
but (it seems to be conceivable that) our experiences are
different in their intrinsic, qualitative character: what it is like
to see red is different from what it is like for me. The Turing
Test cant capture the what it is like feature of experience.

Semantic Externalism

Consciousness: The Zombie Problem

It seems conceivable that a being with NO qualia could pass

the Turning Test. Do qualia matter? If so, for what?