[lit-ideas] Re: The Answering Machine

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2012 13:30:37 -0800

 Donal wrote

>> >> A Turing test is based on the idea, you've got this right, that
>> if you talk with the machine can can't tell the difference between
>> talking with a machine and talking with a person, you call the
>> machine intelligent.>>

John McCreery replied

> Could be. Turing's point was that if the machine interacted with humans in
> a way indistinguishable from the way other humans did there would be no way
> to tell the difference.

Turing begins  (in the paper found at the address I gave 


by introducing the question he proposes to investigate; he goes on though to 
investigate a number of others.



I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?" This should begin 
with definitions of the meaning of the terms "machine" and "think." The 
definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use 
of the words, but this attitude is dangerous, 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. 


The new form of the problem can be described in terms of a game which we call 
the 'imitation game." It is played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B), 
and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a 
room apart front the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is 
to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman. He knows 
them by labels X and Y, and at the end of the game he says either "X is A and Y 
is B" or "X is B and Y is A." The interrogator is allowed to put questions to A 
and B thus: 


C: Will X please tell me the length of his or her hair? 


Now suppose X is actually A, then A must answer. It is A's object in the game 
to try and cause C to make the wrong identification. His answer might therefore 


"My hair is shingled, and the longest strands are about nine inches long." 

In order that tones of voice may not help the interrogator the answers should 
be written, or better still, typewritten. The ideal arrangement is to have a 
teleprinter communicating between the two rooms. Alternatively the question and 
answers can be repeated by an intermediary. The object of the game for the 
third player (B) is to help the interrogator. The best strategy for her is 
probably to give truthful answers. She can add such things as "I am the woman, 
don't listen to him!" to her answers, but it will avail nothing as the man can 
make similar remarks.  


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?"
S. R. Cogitans

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