Artificial Intelligence


A.M. Turing is recognized prominently for his ideas regarding artificial intelligence.  He was considerably interested in this question, “Can machines think?”  Turing was an English mathematician and a truly gifted computer scientist.  In the piece, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” Turing was mostly interested in a game he refers to as the “Imitation Game.”  He supposed that if an interrogator could not distinguish between a machine and a human being then perhaps the public could accept the idea that machines are capable of reasoning.  We now refer to this imitation game as “The Turing Test.”  When Turing uses the word “machine” he means precisely a digital computer.

The main design of the digital computer may be viewed as a machine intended to perform operations that a human computer can execute.  This machine is usually viewed as consisting of three parts: Store, Executive unit, and Control.  The Store is the area in which information can be held.  The Executive Unit is the component that carries out the instructions programmed into the machine.  Lastly, the Control stands as a monitor of instructions, making sure the instructions are followed properly.  Turing credits Charles Babbage as the first to map such a machine known as the Analytical Engine.  While Babbage held vital ideas, his creation was unpopular at the time.

Turning originally wrote this piece in 1950 in which he made a fascinating postulation.  He hypothesized that “in about fifty years time it [would] be possible to program computers, with a storage capacity of about 109, [making] them able to play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 percent chance of making the right identification” (8).  To my knowledge, our advances have not succeeded Turnings beliefs.

Interestingly enough, Turing attempts to explain opinions conflicting with his own.  This tactic is sometimes looked upon as strengthening an argument, but in this case, I think it results in an element of doubt.  He mentions nine different opinions, some stronger than others but all are fairly relevant.  The first is the theological objection, which claims that thinking is a tool that belongs to a man’s immortal soul.  Therefore, no machine or animal may possess this function.  The second objection, referred to as the “Heads in the Sand” objection, argues that we like to view ourselves as “superior to the rest of creation” (9).  As a result, the consequence of machines being able to think would be too emotionally harmful to Man.  The third objection, the Mathematical Opposition states that there will be some questions for which the machine may not be able to generate an answer.  This kind of glitch can be seen as a disability of machines.  The kind of disability that is not subject to human intelligence.  The fourth argument is the Argument of Consciousness.  This is the idea that the machine does not possess senses, thus no machine can feel or experience positive or negative emotions.  It is in this objection that I am reminded of the movie Artificial Intelligence.  This movie is about a young boy named David who is programmed to love by a computer scientist.  He goes on a journey through humanity where he finds that the very place he belongs is co-existing with his human family.   

The fifth dispute is the argument from various disabilities.  This objection claims that one cannot make a machine that can “be kind, resourceful, beautiful, friendly, have initiative, have a sense of humor, tell right from wrong, make mistakes, [and] fall in love” (12).  This quote immediately made me think about the 2004 movie, “I, Robot.”  In this movie one particular robot named Sonny acquires almost all of the traits I had stated before.  It is remarkable to see movies that challenge increasing topics of controversy.  The sixth objection is called the Lady Lovelace objection.  This argument dates back to the Analytical Engine in which Lady Lovelace claims that a machine has no way to originate anything, or thought for that matter.  Everything a machine knows, they know as a result of us.  The seventh dispute is referred to as the Argument from Continuity in the Nervous System.  In this, the main claim is that a discrete-state system cannot imitate the functions of a nervous system.  Being that the nervous system is a continuity and the discrete-state system is not.  The penultimate argument is the Argument from Informality of Behavior.  The idea in this objection is that men do not live by a strict set of rules or instructions where as digital computers do.  Therefore, men cannot be machines and machines cannot be men.  Finally, the last opposition is the Argument from Extrasensory Perception.  This argument was a strong one in Turing’s opinion.  This concept is designed to examine components of telepathy and clairvoyance.  If we accept the beliefs of ESP in the imitation game we must assume that anything is possible. Turing suggests the idea of placing competitors in “telepathy-proof rooms” which would then eliminate the issue of ESP.

In the closing stages of Turning’s article he briefs us on the process of learning machines.  He demonstrates how digital computers may be taught.  He concludes his piece by stating that the limitations on the creation of a thinking machine are that of programming.  The main problem preventing the success of a thinking machine is finding out how to program the machine to play the imitation game accurately and sufficiently.

Every individual has a different opinion on the concept of machines being able to think.  If machines succeeded in fooling the interrogator 70% of the time, would that convince you that machines can think?  People may differ as to what constitutes thought.  Do you think the human species will ever be able to accept that machines can think similar to the way humans can?

3 responses to “Artificial Intelligence

  1. I think that the Lady Lovelace objection has an interesting point. A machine can only do what it is programmed to do by man. So, can it really have independent thought? Also, our thoughts are the result of our experiences, which are the result of our senses. A computer has no senses and, therefore has no experiences. A computer, therefore, cannot have thoughts. I think that the Turing test does not prove that computers can think, only that they can mimic thought.

  2. When I read this I also immediately thought of the movie “Artificial Intelligence” as well. While I agree with the practical idea that machines have programming limitations there is also a psychological element. When I watched “A.I.” I was really disturbed to know that David was a robot, but had such strong child-like emotions. Much like how his mother freaked out, I also had a hard time reconciling this emotionally. There is a strictly human component to emotion, that you have to think and feel them rather than just process them as a computer would.

  3. I thought the part about imitation as a machine’s way of “learning” was rather interesting. Though still very different, I saw a parallel in the way computers “learned” and the way that infants begin to learn, as well. Very young children begin to develop through imitation of behaviors all around them, from speech to the way people walk. Clearly machines lack the ability to have experiences and emotions, but they, like growing infants, repeat and imitate the input/stimuli they receive and put them together sometimes nonsensically. Perhaps if we have been able to create computers with some “learning” capabilities similar to human children, we are on our way to the next stage of development?

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