On the Nature of Intelligence

Turing, Church, von Neumann, and the Brain
  • Paul M. Churchland


Alan Turing is the consensus patron saint of the classical research program in Artificial Intelligence (AI), and his behavioral test for the possession of conscious intelligence has become his principal legacy in the mind of the academic public. Both takes are mistakes. That test is a dialectical throwaway line even for Turing himself, a tertiary gesture aimed at softening the intellectual resistance to a research program which, in his hands, possessed real substance, both mathematical and theoretical. The wrangling over his celebrated test has deflected attention away from those more substantial achievements, and away from the enduring obligation to construct a substantive theory of what conscious intelligence really is, as opposed to an epistemological account of how to tell when you are confronting an instance of it. This essay explores Turing’s substantive research program on the nature of intelligence, and argues that the classical AI program is not its best expression, nor even the expression intended by Turing. It then attempts to put the famous Test into its proper, and much reduced, perspective.


Learning neural computation Turing von Neumann 


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  1. Turing, A. M., 1950, Computing machinery and intelligence, Mind 59: 433–60.CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  2. von Neumann, John, 1958, The Computer and the Brain, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, new edition (2000).zbMATHGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul M. Churchland
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA

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