This is a
question that has been discussed since Alan Turing created his Turing machine
in 1936. The idea that machines could eventually think, or even be said to be
thinking highly depends on your view of what thinking is and what a machine is.
These ideas may even change depending on your beliefs about the physical and
non-physical universe. We are surrounded by machines in our day to day lives,
but are they thinking?
although we do it every day, is difficult to define because it has such a wide
scope. Alan Turing in his article “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (1950)
decided that it was a bad question. Instead of attempting to answer the
question he decides to take a different approach. He gives the example of the
‘imitation game’i which
discusses the idea of an interrogator, a man, and a woman. The interrogator
will try to figure out which is a man, and which is a woman while the man tries
to convince the interrogator that he is a woman and the woman tries to convince
the interrogator of the truth. The game is to be played without any verbal
contact so that the interrogator can only get clues from the answers instead of
the way the answers are said. Turing suggests that if similar results are seen
when the interrogator is a machine and when the man is a machine then the
‘imitation game’ can replace the question ‘can machines think?’. However, this
article is almost 70 years old. Have computers come any better at the
been creating computers to try and pass the Turing test since it was created.
The test is said to be passed if the computer is mistaken for a human more than
30% of the time. The University of Reading developed a computer they called
‘Eugene’ which was able to convince 33% of the human judges that it was a
However, ‘Eugene’ hasn’t been given any emotion or senses, it was designed to
pass the Turing test. It may be somewhat synonymous with thought, but with the
lack of other thought processes that may not be considered in the Turing test,
is ‘Eugene’ thinking? Descartes, in his “Discourse on Method” (1637)iii
argued that the most demanding test for thought was the ability to hold an
intelligent conversation. Descartes suggests that “it could never modify
its phrases to reply to the sense of whatever was said in its presence, as even
the most stupid men can do.”
Dualists beliefs emphasize the difference between mind and
matter. Their beliefs are that the mind is different to the brain. “the mind is
a thinking thing that lacks the usual attributes of physical objects: size,
shape, location, solidity, motion, adherence to the laws of physics, and so on”iv
This suggests that we can make a machine ‘think’ like a human does because the thinking
part of us is our ‘mind’ which is separate to the physical part called the brain.
Descartes believed that in a person there were 2 components, the physical body
and the nonphysical body which would be called the mind or the soul. Descartes
beliefs lead to the mind-body problem. He believed that the mind/soul part of
the world could not be touched or seen. These beliefs created the mind-body
problem, how can the mind interact with the human body if it cant be seen or
touched? Descartes beliefs became improbable and lead to theories such as
Alan Turing. (1950). Computing Machinery and
Intelligence. Available: https://www.csee.umbc.edu/courses/471/papers/turing.pdf.
Last accessed 1st Jan 2018.
(2014). Turing test success. Available:
http://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR583836.aspx. Last accessed
1st Jan 2018.
iii René Descartes. (1637). Discourse on the Method. Available:
Last accessed 1st Jan 2018.
iv Scott Calef. Dualism and Mind. Available:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/dualism/. Last accessed 1st Jan 2018.