Turing’s Rules for the Imitation Game

  • Gualtiero Piccinini
Part of the Studies in Cognitive Systems book series (COGS, volume 30)


In the 1950s, Alan Turing proposed his influential test for machine intelligence, which involved a teletyped dialogue between a human player, a machine, and an interrogator. Two readings of Turing’s rules for the test have been given. According to the standard reading of Turing’s words, the goal of the interrogator was to discover which was the human being and which was the machine, while the goal of the machine was to be indistinguishable from a human being. According to the literal reading, the goal of the machine was to simulate a man imitating a woman, while the interrogator — unaware of the real purpose of the test — was attempting to determine which of the two contestants was the woman and which was the man. The present work offers a study of Turing’s rules for the test in the context of his advocated purpose and his other texts. The conclusion is that there are several independent and mutually reinforcing lines of evidence that support the standard reading, while fitting the literal reading in Turing’s work faces severe interpretative difficulties. So, the controversy over Turing’s rules should be settled in favor of the standard reading.

Key words

Turing test 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Cowley, S.J. and MacDorman, K.F. (1995), ‘Simulating Conversations: The Communion Game’, AI and Society 9, pp. 116–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Genova, J. (1994), ‘Turing’s Sexual Guessing Game’, Social Epistemology 8, pp. 313–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Haugeland, J. (1985), Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Hayes, P. and Ford, K. (1995), ‘Turing Test Considered Harmful’, Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, pp. 972–977.Google Scholar
  5. Hodges, A. (1983), Alan Turing: The Enigma. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  6. Ince, D.C., ed. (1992), Collected Works ofA.M. Turing: Mechanical Intelligence. Amsterdam: North Holland.Google Scholar
  7. Newman, M.H.A. (1955), ‘Alan Mathison Turing’, in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. London: Royal Soc., pp. 253–362.Google Scholar
  8. Piccinini, G (2001), ‘Turing and the Mathematical Objection’, Forthcoming in Minds and Machines.Google Scholar
  9. Saygin A.P., Cicekli L. and Akman V. (2000), ‘Turing Test: 50 Years Later’, Minds and Machines 10, pp. 463–518.Google Scholar
  10. Sterrett, S. (2000), ‘Turing’s Two Tests for Intelligence’, Minds and Machines 10, pp. 541–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Traiger, S. (2000), ‘Making the Right Identification in the Turing Test’, Minds and Machines 10, pp. 561–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Turing, A.M. (1945), ‘Proposal for Development in the Mathematical Division of an Automatic Computing Engine (ACE)’, reprinted in Ince (1992), pp. 1–86.Google Scholar
  13. Turing, A.M. (1947), ‘Lecture to the London Mathematical Society on 20 February 1947’, reprinted in Ince (1992), pp. 87–105.Google Scholar
  14. Turing, A.M. (1948), ‘Intelligent Machinery’, reprinted in Ince (1992), pp. 107–127.Google Scholar
  15. Turing, A.M. (1950), ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, Mind 59, pp. 433–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Turing, A.M. (1951), ‘Can digital computers think?’ Typescript of talk broadcast on BBC Third Programme, 15 May 1951, AMT B.5, Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, King’s College Library, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  17. Turing, A.M. (1952), Can automatic calculating machines be said to think?’ Typescript of broadcast discussion on BBC Third Programme, 14 and 23 January 1952, between M.H.A. Newman, A.M. Turing, Sir Geoffrey Jefferson, R.B. Braithwaite, AMT B.6, Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, King’s College Library, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  18. Turing, E.S. (1959), Alan M. Turing. Cambridge: Heifer & Sons.Google Scholar
  19. Webb, J.C. (1980), Mechanism, Mentalism, and Metamathematics. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gualtiero Piccinini
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PittsburghDepartment of History and Philosophy of SciencePittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations