What does the Turing test really mean?

That is a new paper of mine, co-authored with Michelle Dawson.  There is much more to Turing's classic essay than meets the eye.  The famous "test" is not a standard for distinguishing human from machine intelligence but rather one step in an argument showing that such a distinction is not as important as we might think.  Turing cleverly shows why the supposed test is misleading and the real question is how to educate both children and machines, not how to distinguish them.  The summary statement of our paper is as follows:

…a potent and indeed subversive perspective in the paper has been underemphasized. Some of the message of Turing’s paper is encouraging us to take a broader perspective on intelligence and some of his points are ethical in nature. Turing’s paper is about the possibility of unusual forms of intelligence, our inability to recognize those intelligences, and the limitations of indistinguishability as a standard for defining intelligence. “Inability to imitate does not rule out intelligence” is an alternative way of reading many parts of his argument. Turing was issuing the warning that we should not dismiss or persecute entities which we cannot easily categorize or understand. 

If you read Turing's essay closely, you will find many underrated passages of interest, especially when read in light of his homosexuality (and also possible autism).  Here is the closing bit from our paper:

It is possible that Turing conceived of his imitation test precisely because he had so much difficulty “passing” and communicating himself. In social settings these facts were seen as disabilities but in the longer term they helped Turing produce this brilliant essay.

One brute fact is that a lot of human beings could not, themselves, pass a Turing test.  Could you?

Addendum: Here is my previous post, Toward a Theory of Raivo Pommer-Eesti.


uggzcl: Would you say Mr. Pickwick reminded you of Christmas?

"The famous "test" is not a standard for distinguishing human from machine intelligence but rather one step in an argument showing that such a distinction is not as important as we might think. "

Sorry, but I do think this mixes truth with rubbish. Turing understands the test isn't a standard for distinguishing - after all, he thinks a machine will be able to pass his "imitation game", so there's no distinguishing there, right? So your first conjunct is correct; it's not a standard for distinguishing and Turing never suggested it as such.

But the second conjunct - the test is "one step in an argument showing that such a distinction is not as important as we might think" - is just rubbish. It's no such thing. Turing would like to answer the question, "Can machines think?" but realizes that the question can only be answered if it is clear what one means by "think". He doesn't want to get bogged down in semantics, so he proposes an alternate question, using his famous test, "which is closely related to" the question "Can machines think?" and "which is expressed in relatively unambiguous words".

Surely the odds of me, or anyone else, passing a Turing test is not independent of the qualities of the administrator?
If we assume a very competent test administrator, then yes, I'd pass. If we assume a lazy test administrator who just picks at random, I'd have a 50% chance. If we assume an incompetent test administrator I might have a lower than 50% chance (judging by people on the Internet who have occasionally said "You only say that because you're male.")

PS, the above condensed into a bite-size meme:

"The Russian mafia: midwife to the singularity"

If the test administrator is trained, then they will almost always correctly choose the human (versus a program attempting to fool the administrator). OTOH, if you take a random person off the street, the program will fool them a reasonable percent of the time.

One thing to note though is that this isn't a very active area of research. It's not considered very useful to make AI act like humans (we have humans to do that for us). So if everyone cared more it's likely we'd be in a much better position.

I don't know. Have you ever chatted with the Indians running the Dell help desk? They have human-triggered hot-keyed responses to the customers questions, sort of human-assisted computer conversation, or a computer-assisted human conversation. Either way, I had no feeling I was involved in an intelligent discourse.

Dear Mr. Cowen, re your piece on autism: I would have you know that the greatest genius of a currently living writer and dramatist, Peter Handke, is autistic: after doing as thorough a possible [for me] analysis of his capacities as a writer, and of the profound benefits and psychological wounds he acquired intrauterine and in childhood, his social ineptness and the autistic states that his extreme hypersensitivity bequeathes, of which we as sensitive readers can be the beneficiaries, would appear to be a differently arranged sets of brain stemcells, allowing of the growth of certain areas that are generally killed, or anyhow, too "socialized" by socialization processes. Something along those lines, explains the Mozarts, the Bachs the Handkes, the Beethovens, to stick just to the German realm, and that of course does not constitute an explanation, perhaps a setting of the viewing angle. here is a set of links to handke material: LINK OF LYNXES TO MOST HANDKE MATERIAL ON THE WEB:


SCRIPTMANIA PROJECT MAIN SITE: http://www.handke.scriptmania.com
and 13 sub-sites

the newest:
contains the psychoanalytic monograph

http://www.handkelectures.freeservers.com [the drama lecture]


[dem handke auf die schliche/ prosa, a book of mine about Handke]


[the American Scholar caused controversy about Handke, reviews, detailed of Coury/ Pilipp's THE WORKS OF PETER HANDKE, the psycho-biological monograph]
with three photo albums, to wit:






[some handke material, too, the Milosevic controversy summarized]

Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society
this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS:


"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]


"Unless you're using a fixed-width font, sentences should *never* be separated by two spaces."


"HTML itself doesn't even support this, ..."

Then to Hell with HTML.

Back to Turing - However amazing his work was, practical application to AI was kind of lost decades ago. There are lots of areas where we cannot distinguish between a human and a machine. Using the Indian Call Center example (true for any call center, actually) - the only way we know we are speaking to a human is the interface. The words are scripted and come out exactly the same - human or machine.

Another example - hand drawn animation vs. computer generated.

As suggested above - the criteria for good AI has changed.

Double spaces rule!

And THAT is the Turning test we geeks tend to fail.

AI nuts: Who's doing work on applying evolutionary algorithms to AI? Like blind variation and selective retention of various algorithms? Has anybody done this in multiple layers? What's going on in this field right now?

OCD, I refuse to bend to your rules so that you will appear more human because you can implement simplistic formatting rules. A human will be sensitive to the reader's needs, and not view the formatting of text as purely driven by the convenience of the author. In other words, the writer must have human empathy for a human writer, and we humans refuse to have empathy for machines like you who are dogmatic and rule driven to the inconvenience of humans.

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