Can People Think? Or Machines?

A Unified Protocol for Turing Testing
  • Stuart Watt


This chapter is about how we might assess the difference between human minds and machine minds. It is divided into two parts. The first briefly explores how machines might decide whether humans are intelligent, and parallels Turing’s 1950 article closely. The second explores a hypothetical legal case in somewhat more detail, looking at Turing’s Test in a more legal setting. Both explore sources of variation implicit in the format of the test. The two main parts of the chapter are written in different voices, to escape the assumption that the Turing Test is necessarily scientific and philosophical, and to make it possible to explore the implications of positions that cannot be my own – for one reason or another. There are three main players in the imitation game: the machine, the control, and the interrogator or judge. Each plays an active role in the test, and Turing’s article (as most that followed) left the background and aims of these players deliberately vague. This added strength to the Turing Test – but a strength that makes pinning down the actual nature and intent of the test remarkably hard. In some ways, anybody can do anything in the Turing Test – that is its strength, but also its weakness. This chapter will try to pin down the elusive Turing Test – developing a more elaborate and complete protocol, by drawing on philosophical, scientific, technical, legal, and commonsense assessments of what thinking is, and how we might test for it in practice.


Turing Test imitation game intelligence indistinguishability tests categorization legal interpretation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart Watt
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Computing, The Robert Gordon UniversityAberdeenUK

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