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``Can machines think?'' The missing history of the Turing test

Gonçalves, Bernardo (2021) ``Can machines think?'' The missing history of the Turing test. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Turing's much debated test has just turned 70 and is still fairly controversial. His seminal 1950 paper is seen as a complex and multi-layered text and key questions are yet to be answered. Why did Turing refer to ``can machines think?'' as a question that was ``too meaningless to deserve discussion'' and yet spent the largest section (over 40%) of his text discussing it? Why did he spend several years working with chess-playing as a task to illustrate and test machine intelligence only to trade it off for conversational question-answering in his 1950 test? Why did Turing refer to gender imitation in a test for machine intelligence? In this paper I shall address these questions directly by unveiling social, historical and epistemological roots of Turing's 1950 test. I will show that it came out of a controversy over the cognitive capabilities of digital computers, most notably with physicist and computer pioneer Douglas Hartree, chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, and neurosurgeon Geoffrey Jefferson. Turing's 1950 paper is essentially a reply to a series of challenges posed to him by these thinkers against the view that machines can think. My goal is to improve the intelligibility of Turing's test and contribute to ground it in its history.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Gonçalves, Bernardobegoncalves@usp.br0000-0003-2794-8478
Keywords: Alan Turing; Can machines think?; The imitation game; The Turing test; History of artificial intelligence; Mind-machine controversy
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > History of Philosophy
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Artificial Intelligence
General Issues > Science and Society
Depositing User: Dr. Bernardo Gonçalves
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2021 22:42
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2021 22:42
Item ID: 18847
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > History of Philosophy
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Artificial Intelligence
General Issues > Science and Society
Date: 23 March 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18847

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