The Turing Test & Chinese Room Experiment: Lecture Handout: Larry Hauser

The Turing Test and Vicinity


Descartes' Challenge: "For we can certainly conceive of a machine so constructed that it utters words, and even utters words which correspond to bodily actions causing a change in its organs (e.g., if you touch it in one spot it asks what you want of it, if you touch it in another it cries out that you are hurting it, and so on). But it is not conceivable that such a machine should produce different arrangements of words so as to give an appropriately meaningful answer to whatever is said in its presence, as even the dullest of men can do." (Descartes 1637, p. 140)

Computers as Contenders in Principle: "This special property of digital computers, that they can mimic any discrete-state machine, is described by saying that they are universal machines. The existence of machines with this property has the important consequence that, considerations of speed apart, it is unnecessary to design various new machines to do various computing processes. They can all be done with one digital computer, suitably programmed for each case." (Turing 1950 §5)

The Imitation Game

Questioner: Aims to discover if A or B is the Man


(A) Male: aims to fool the questioner
(B) Female: aims to help the questioner

Turing's Test

Modified Turing Test Setup

Questioner: Aims to discover if the querent is human or computer.


Human or Computer

Turing's rationale: "The question and answer method seems to be suitable for introducing almost any one of the fields of human endeavor which we wish to include" (Turing 1950, p.435).

Turing's analysis: "The [imitation] game may perhaps be criticized on the ground that the odds are weighted too heavily against the machine. This objection is a very strong one, but at least we can say that if, nevertheless, a machine can be constructed to play the imitation game satisfactorily, we need not be troubled by this objection" (Turing 1950, p. 435).

Turing's prediction: "in about fifty years' time [by the year 2000] it will be possible to program computers ... to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will have no more than 70 per cent. chance of making the correct identification after five minutes of questioning." (Turing 1950, p.442).

Partial Turing Tests

Questioner: Aims to discover if the candidate has specific mental properties or abilities.

Q: 7+5=?
A: 12

Specific Mental Property at Issue: Calculates Sums?

Turing's Second Prediction: I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted." (Turing 1950, p.452)




Appropriate output to given input must be mediated by the right conscious experiences. Mental states and processes are, essentially, phenomenological or qualetative states and processes.

Mind-Brain Identity Theory


Appropriate output to given input must be mediated by the right neurophysiological mechanisms. Mental states and processes are, essentially, neurophysiological states and processes.



Appropriate output to given input must be mediated by the right procedures. Mental states and processes are, essentially, computational processes.



Appropriate output to given input is all that's required. Mental qualities are behavioral dispositions of systems and not, essentially, identifiable with any (type of) mediating states or processes.


Questioner a native speaker of Chinese

Questions in Chinese
Answers in Chinese

Monolingual English speaker hand tracing a Natural Language Understanding program of Chinese by following instructions written in English.

Searle's Conclusion: it seems to me quite obvious in the example that I do not understand a word of the Chinese stories. I have inputs and outputs that are indistinguishable from those of the native Chinese speaker [i.e., everything that behaviorism would require], and I can have any formal program you like [all functionalism would require], but I still understand nothing. (Searle 1980a, p. 418)

Naive AI & Folk Psychology

[A]t the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.” (Turing 1950, p. 442).

When prospecting for intuitions, we should prefer a field which is not too much trodden into bogs by traditional philosophy, for in that case even "ordinary" language will often have become infected with the jargon of extinct theories, and our own prejudices too, as the upholders and imbibers of theoretical views, will be too readily, and often insensibly, engaged. (Austin 1957, p.384)

  1. then windows decides "Fuck you and your BIOS settings, you LOSER" and assigns everything back to irq 9. i reboot and go back to bios, and they are all teh same as i'd set them and the stat screen on bootup shows the same, so i boot windows again and they're all on 9 again. wtf.. windows ignores the bios settings. fuck bill gates, fuck microsoft, and fuck windows. (
  2. Authorization failed. This server could not verify that you are authorized to access the document requested. Either you supplied the wrong credentials (e.g., bad password), or your browser doesn't understand how to supply the credentials required. (Error message reported to me by my wife, B. Abbott)
  3. MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let me bring Mr. Friedel back in here. Mr. Friedel, did Gary Kasparov think the computer was thinking?
    FREDERIC FRIEDEL: Not thinking but that it was showing intelligent behavior. When Gary Kasparov plays against the computer, he has the feeling that it is forming plans; it understands strategy; it's trying to trick him; it's blocking his ideas, and then to tell him, now, this has nothing to do with intelligence, it's just number crunching, seems very semantic to him. [Friedel is Kasparov's technical advisor.] (McNeil Lehrer 1997 as cited in Hauser 2001)
  4. By default, Word thinks that you do not want text next to any image This is fine if the image takes the majority of the page width; however, most of the time ... (
  5. Word has a very good spell checker built in. When Word thinks that there is a problem with spelling of a word, a wavy red line will appear below the word. ... (
  6. If you were already in the middle of a mail merge processing document, Microsoft Word wants to know whether you have decided to change your mind and want to switch from the current document to a label format. (
  7. Let me try to explain this in the clearest way possible. We'll use Microsoft Word 2000 for this example. When you create a brand new document and click on the Save button on your Standard Toolbar, you will be presented with the Save As dialog box because Word wants to know three things:
    1. Where do you want to save it?
    2. What do you want to name it?
    3. What file type do you want it to be? (
  8. When you come to the end of a page, Word decides how to break a paragraph. Word follows the rules set by the styles and margins. ... ( alt/first_timers/100120202.asp)
  9. Does anyone know how Word decides how big to make an image put in via Insert > Picture? (


Austin, John L. 1946. Other Minds. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplement XX:148-187.

Austin, John L. 1957. A Plea for Excuses. In Classics of Analytic Philosophy, ed. R. Ammerman, 379-398. Indianapolis: Hackett Inc.

Chomsky, Noam. 1966. Linguistics and Descartes. In Historical foundations of cognitive science, 71-79. Dordrecht, Holland: Kluwer. Reprinted from Cartesia Linguistics: A chapter in the History of Rational Thought (Harper & Rowe, Publishers, Inc.), pp. 3-13.

Descartes, R. 1637. Discourse on Method. Translated in J.Cottingham, R.Stoothoff, and D.Murdoch, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol.1. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (1985). 131-141 (Part 5).

Descartes, R. 1642. Meditations on First Philosophy. Translated in J.Cottingham, R.Stoothoff, and D.Murdoch, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol.2. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (1984). 16-23 (Second Meditation).

Descartes, R. 1646. "Letter to the Marquess of Newcastle, 23 November 1646". Translated in Anthony Kenny, Descartes Philosophical Letters. Clarendon Press: Oxford (1970). 205-208.

Dretske, F. 1985. "Machines and the Mental". Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol.59. 23-33.

Hauser, Larry. 1993a. "Why Isn't my Pocket Calculator a Thinking Thing?" Minds and Machines, Vol.3. 3-10. Online:

Hauser, Larry. 1993b. "The Sense of 'Thinking': Reply to Rapaport". Minds and Machines, Vol.3. 21-29. Online:

Hauser, Larry. 1993c. Searle's Chinese Box: The Chinese Room Argument and Artificial Intelligence. East Lansing: Michigan State University (doctoral dissertation).

Hauser, Larry. 2001. "Look Who's Moving the Goal Posts Now". Minds and Machines, Vol. 11 (2001), No. 1, pp. 41-51.

Landau, Barbara and Gleitman, Lila. 1985. Language and Experience: Evidence from the Blind Child. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

Nagel, T. 1974. "What is it Like to Be a Bat?" Philosophical Review, Vol. 83. 435-450.

Rapaport, William. 1993. "Because Mere Calculating Isn't Thinking: Reply to Hauser". Minds and Machines, Vol.3. 11-20.

Searle, J. R. 1980. "Minds, Brains, and Programs". Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol.3., 417-424.

Turing, A. M. 1950. "Computing Machinery and Intelligence." Mind, Vol. LIX. 433-460. Online: