Testing Turing

Turing Tests



The classic Turing test involves a robot that passes for a conscious human. The examiner spends time with the robot, asking questions, interacting, and the question is whether it presents a convincing appearance of intelligence and consciousness. It is like an audition for playing the part of a normal human being. Structurally, however, the Turing test exemplifies something more general, and it is instructive to spell out what this is.

Thus consider the Turing* test: can we construct a virtual world that passes for a real world? An engineer is making a machine that will feed inputs into the brain and produce an impression of a world of ordinary material objects; the question is whether this virtual world can convince someone that it is real. The subject can experiment on this virtual world, moving around, varying the angles, using different senses, and if after some suitable time cannot distinguish the virtual from the real, we can declare that the machine passes the Turing* test. It can produce a convincing simulacrum of a real world—as a robotics engineer might produce a convincing simulacrum of a conscious intelligence.

We could also envisage a Turing** test that concerns producing artificial plant life: can we make an object that resembles a naturally occurring plant enough to convince someone that it is really a biological plant? And we can have subdivisions of such questions: can we artificially simulate a virus, a bat, a cactus, or an octopus? The question is not specific to robots and minds at all: it is about the power to mimic naturally occurring objects by artificial contrivance. Can we make an artificial F, for arbitrary F?

Here is an interesting question of this general type—call it the super-Turing test: can we create a virtual world that contains robots that pass the classic Turing test? That is, we first have to create a virtual world of bodies, as in the Turing* test, and then we have to ensure that those virtual bodies behave in ways that perfectly mimic human bodies—so that they will pass the Turing test. Thus virtual robots may pass the super-Turing test, and hence be declared conscious intelligent beings.

Suppose they do pass that test: are they then really conscious? But how can a merely virtual being be conscious? Are people in your dreams conscious? Passing the Turing test is not logically sufficient to qualify as conscious, because passing the super-Turing test is not sufficient. Passing the test is enough to convince someone that there is a real thing here of the type in question, if they don’t know the actual nature of thing; but that is a question about evidence and belief, not about what is metaphysically possible. Anything can pass a Turing-type test for being an F but still not be an F.



3 responses to “Testing Turing”

  1. Rick Padua says:

    Actual intelligences (think of toddlers) exist in a real three-dimensional world and program themselves by intentionally exploring (interacting with) that world and grounding themselves along with their self-created symbolic representations within that world. Initially at any rate. Eventually, if they’re smart, they begin to rip stuff off from the minds of others of their kind (Harnad’s “adaptive advantage of symbolic theft over sensorimotor toil”). But the basic intentional symbol grounding, that phenomenological magic trick, always necessarily an autonomous act, is what defines intelligence. Machine Intelligence is, like, an oxymoron.

    A convincing virtual world is a very high bar. Your basis for comparison could only be the world you started constructing for yourself well before you began to crawl. Accept no substitutes.

  2. diane says:

    i believe that robots may eventually turn conscious. most people may not turn conscious though as so many around us are not capable of thinking of what they are doing and why. you all seem to think about another world to be created that may or may not pass a consciousness test.
    of another species of humans or robots that may or not may pass a consciousness test.
    but not us, you all assume that all of us, here, are conscious.
    just that the robots are not yet and how on earth they will turn out to be in the future. cos we want that.

  3. diane says:

    to me, its horrifying how some people are. they should pass some fucking consciousness test to be accepted.
    it remains untold, unknown, or known and so what.
    and useless. useless and useless and useless.

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