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Computing Machinery and Intelligence.
Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1950. First edition, journal issue in original printed wrappers, of Alan Turing's landmark explanation of what would become known as the 'Turing test' to determine whether a machine can 'think'. In 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence,' "Turing sidestepped the debate about exactly how to define thinking by means of a very practical, albeit subjective, test: if a computer acts, reacts, and interacts like a sentient being, then call it sentient. To avoid prejudicial rejection of evidence of machine intelligence, Turing suggested the 'imitation game,' now known as the Turing test: a remote human interrogator, within a fixed time frame, must distinguish between a computer and a human subject based on their replies to various questions posed by the interrogator. By means of a series of such tests, a computer's success at 'thinking' can be measured by its probability of being misidentified as the human subject. Turing predicted that by the year 2000 a computer 'would be able to play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than a 70-percent chance of making the right identification (machine or human) after five minutes of questioning.' No computer has come close to this standard" (Britannica). Together with 'On computable numbers', 'Computing machinery and intelligence' forms Turing's best-known work. This elegant and sometimes amusing essay was originally published in 1950 in the leading philosophy journal Mind. Turing's friend Robin Gandy (like Turing a mathematical logician) said that 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' 'was intended not so much as a penetrating contribution to philosophy but as propaganda. Turing thought the time had come for philosophers and mathematicians and scientists to take seriously the fact that computers were not merely calculating engines but were capable of behaviour which must be accounted as intelligent; he sought to persuade people that this was so. He wrote this paper - unlike his mathematical papers - quickly and with enjoyment. I can remember him reading aloud to me some of the passages - always with a smile, sometimes with a giggle.' The quality and originality of 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' have earned it a place among the classics of philosophy of mind" (Copeland, The Essential Turing, p. 433). "'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' contains Turing's principal exposition of the famous 'imitation game' or Turing test ... The imitation game involves three participants: a computer, a human interrogator, and a human 'foil'. The interrogator attempts to determine, by asking questions of the other two participants, which of them is the computer. All communication is via keyboard and screen, or an equivalent arrangement (Turing suggested a teleprinter link). The interrogator may ask questions as penetrating and wide-ranging as he or she likes, and the computer is permitted to do everything possible to force a wrong identification. (So the computer might answer 'No' in response to 'Are you a computer?' and might follow a request to multiply one large number by another with a long pause and a plausibly incorrect answer.) The foil must help the interrogator to make a correct identification. "The ability to play the imitation game successfully is Turing's proposed 'criterion for thinking'. He gives two examples of the sort of exchange that might occur between an interrogator and a machine that plays successfully. The following is from pp. 446-7. Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day', would not 'a spring day' do as well or better? Machine: It wouldn't scan. Interrogator: How about 'a winter's day?' That would scan all right. Machine: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter's day. Interrogator: Would you say Mr Pickwick reminded you of Christmas? Machine: In a way. Interrogator: Yet Christmas is a winter's day, and I do not think Mr Pickwick would mind the comparison. Machine: I don't think you're serious. By a winter's day one means a typical winter's day, rather than a special one like Christmas. "Turing is sometimes said to have proposed a definition of 'thinking' or 'intelligence'; and sometimes his supposed definition is said to be an 'operational' or 'behaviourist' definition ... There is no textual evidence to support this interpretation of Turing, however. In 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' Turing claimed to be offering only a criterion for 'thinking' (emphasis added) ... In fact, Turing made it plain in 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' that his intention was not to offer a definition, for he said: 'The game may perhaps be criticised on the ground that the odds are weighted too heavily against the machine. If the man were to try and pretend to be the machine he would clearly make a very poor showing. He would be given away at once by slowness and inaccuracy in arithmetic. May not machines carry out something which ought to be described as thinking but which is very different from what a man does?' (p. 442). "A computer carrying out something that 'ought to be described as thinking' would nevertheless fail the Turing test if for any reason it stood out in conversation as very different from a man. It follows that 'thinking' cannot be defined in terms of success in the imitation game. Success in the game is arguably a sufficient condition for thinking; but success in the imitation game is not also a necessary condition for thinking. (Someone's breathing spontaneously is a sufficient condition for their being alive, but it is not also a necessary condition, for someone may be alive without breathing spontaneously.) "Turing introduced his criterion for 'thinking' by first describing an imitation game involving a human interrogator and two human subjects, one male (A) and one female (B). The interrogator must determine, by question and answer, which of A and B is the man. A's object in the game is to try to cause the interrogator to make the wrong identification. Having introduced the imitation game in this way, Turing said: 'We now ask the question, 'What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game?' Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman? These questions replace our original, 'Can machines think?' (p. 434) ... "Section 6 of 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence', entitled 'Contrary Views on the Main Question', occupies nearly half of the article. It contains no fewer than nine objections to Turing's position, together with Turing's rebuttal of each" (Copeland, pp. 433-6). The most famous of them, which Turing terms the 'Mathematical Objection', can be stated as follows: 'Recently the theorem of Gödel and related results ... have shown that if one tries to use machines for such purposes as determining the truth or falsity of mathematical theorems and one is not willing to tolerate an occasional wrong result, then any given machine will in some cases be unable to give an answer at all. On the other hand the human intelligence seems to be able to find methods of ever-increasing power for dealing with such problems 'transcending' the methods available to machines'. This objection has become known over the years as the 'Gödel argument'. "Turing says (p. 445): 'The short answer to this argument is that although it is established that there are limitations to the powers of any particular machine, it has only been stated, without any sort of proof, that no such limitations apply to the human intellect.' This remark might appear to cut to the heart of the matter. However, Turing expresses dissatisfaction with it, saying that the Mathematical Objection cannot 'be dismissed so lightly'. He goes on to broach a further line of attack on the argument, pointing out that humans 'often give wrong answers to questions'" (Copeland, p. 469). "Section 7 of 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' [is] entitled 'Learning Machines'. Turing poses the rhetorical question: 'Instead of trying to produce a programme to simulate the adult mind, why not rather try to produce one which simulates the child's?' (p. 456). The child's mind may contain 'so little mechanism' that 'something like it can be easily programmed'. If this child-machine 'were then subjected to an appropriate course of education one would obtain the adult brain' ... Turing mentions in Section 7 that he has 'done some experiments with one such child-machine, and succeeded in teaching it a few things, but the teaching method was too unorthodox for the experiment to be considered really successful' (p. 457) ... "AI [Artificial Intelligence] traditionally has attempted to build disembodied intelligences carrying out abstract activities - e.g. chess-playing and whose only way of interacting with the world is by means of a screen or printer. An alternative approach now called 'situated AI' aims at building embodied intelligences situated in the real world. 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' ends with a characteristically farsighted statement in which Turing sketches each of these two approaches to AI. He contrasts research that focuses on 'abstract activity, like the playing of chess' with research aiming 'to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English' (p. 460). Turing recommended that 'both approaches should be tried' (ibid.)" (Copeland, pp. 438-9). Pp. 433-460 in: Mind, A Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 236, October, 1950. 8vo (213 x 140 mm), pp. [x], 433-576. Original printed wrappers (a few tiny marginal chips and tears to the wrappers). A fine copy.
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