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The Genius of the 'Original Imitation Game' Test


Twenty years ago in "Turing's Two Tests for Intelligence" I distinguished two distinct tests to be found in Alan Turing's 1950 paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence": one by then very well-known, the other neglected. I also explained the significance of the neglected test. This paper revisits some of the points in that paper and explains why they are even more relevant today. It also discusses the value of tests for machine intelligence based on games humans play, giving an analysis of some twentieth century TV game shows and how they relate to the tests for machine intelligence in Turing's paper and in some other tests for machine intelligence that have been proposed since. Their value in distinguishing between 'wise' and simply ‘clever’ AI is discussed.

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Fig. 1


  1. CAP’99 (Computers and Philosophy 1999, August 6th, 1999, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. Also presented at the Pittsburgh Group on Theoretical Cognition and at Occidental College in early 2000. Later papers on the topic have appeared (Sterrett 2002, 2012, 2017).

  2. As I write this, the Wikipedia entry on the Turing Test says that I conflate the two tests. Whereas, the whole point of Sterrett (2000) is that there are two distinct tests; it even gives them proper names. Other authors similarly describe Sterrett as saying the exact opposite of what Sterrett (2000) actually said about the role of gender in Turing’s article, or describe it as making a historical claim about what Turing meant, which is, again, the exact opposite of what that article said.

  3. “It is a cliché that tests of intellectual skill differ from tests of purely mechanical skill in the novelty of the tasks set. The ability to tie a variety of knots, or to perform a variety of dives, is tested by asking the contestant to perform these tasks, and the test is not compromised if the contestant knows exactly what will be asked and practices until the task can be performed without stopping to reflect anew upon what is required. In contrast, we would think someone had missed the point of an intelligence test were the contestant given the answers to the questions beforehand, and coached to practice delivering them.” (Sterrett 2000).

  4. E.g., Shah and Warwick (2016).

  5. Biography of Arthur Samuel. IEEE Computer Society.


  7. Ref: “Game Show ‘What’s My Line?’ Turns 70” by Marc Berman, February 2, 2020 in Forbes magazine. Downloaded May 4th, 2020 from

  8. January 13th, 1964 episode. You Tube channel “To Tell the Truth (CBS)”

  9. Colin Allen has pointed out that it is very likely that in using ‘man’ here, Turing meant no more than to indicate the player was human, of either gender. I find this very plausible.


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Sterrett, S.G. The Genius of the 'Original Imitation Game' Test. Minds & Machines 30, 469–486 (2020).

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  • Intelligence
  • Machine intelligence
  • Turing Test
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Gender
  • Alan Turing
  • IBM Watson