By Massimo Pigliucci

The “Turing Test” is a big deal in Artificial Intelligence and logic, for reasons that are assuredly not flattering. As the “Test” is obviously flawed. The Test confuses conversation and imagination, while identifying both to intelligence.

The fundamental error of this Descartes Test is mathematical (ironical, as Descartes was one of the greatest mathematicians, ever: he invented algebraic geometry, the foundation of all modern science and technology).

The Descartes Test overlooks the fact that the set of all possible conversations is not just countable, but even, certainly, in practice, finite. Thus a machine could plausibly, encompass all possible conversations, as it means interlinking a finite set with logical chains.

(To excuse Descartes, the notion of countability had not yet been clearly defined in his time; it leads, in turn, to the finiteness of speech, modulo my finite mood.)

Other objections to the Descartes Test show up in the essay reblogged below (which I wanted to write long ago, and have alluded to, here and there).

The “Turing” Test certainly ought to be called the Descartes Test, in light of the quote given in the attached essay. To know that the Turing test was actually invented by Descartes is of no small consequence.

Who “invented” what is not just a question of justice. And no just a question of the history of the systems of thought. It’s also a question of logic: knowing an idea appeared early on is a hint that it ought to be obvious, for example.

This process of associating the correct labels ought to be extended to all fields on inquiry. For example, Johanus Buridanus formulated clearly the law of inertia, circa 1320. That’s more than three centuries before the Anglo-Saxon gentleman generally celebrated as its author, was born.

This is a testimony that the Church was incredibly efficient, in the late Fifteenth Century, in its repression of advanced thinking. Buridan was put to the “Index”. Except in Cracow, where Copernicus studied, and, when he was dying, the latter re-published Buridan heliocentric proposition.

This ought to be a warning to the pseudo-scientist attitude about the Multiverse and Strings: too much craziness could lead to an anti-science backlash, on the ground of common sense.

(Fortunately, there is biology, which is much more scientific than physics, these days!)

The Turing Test pretends that intelligence is all about conversation, a finite process. It’s not. It’s about imagination (a much larger process).
Patrice Ayme

By Massimo Pigliucci
By Massimo Pigliucci

You probably heard the news: a supercomputer has become sentient and has passed the Turing test (i.e., has managed to fool a human being into thinking he was talking to another human being [1,2])! Surely the Singularity is around the corner and humanity is either doomed or will soon become god-like.

Except, of course, that little of the above is true, and it matters even less. First, let’s get the facts straight: what actually happened [3] was that a chatterbot (i.e., a computer script), not a computer, has passed the Turing test at a competition organized at the Royal Society in London. Second, there is no reason whatsoever to think that the chatterbot in question, named “Eugene Goostman” and designed by Vladimir Veselov, is sentient, or even particularly intelligent. It’s little more than a (clever) parlor trick. Third, this was actually the second time that a chatterbot passed.

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