Friday, 29 June 2012


Part of the international Alan Turing Year celebrations Turing Education Day at Bletchley Park 30 June 2012 has an exceptional programme of Turing-related talks:

Lord Charles Brocket and Sir John Dermot Turing
'Turing's Computational Explorations of Biology'   Margaret Boden OBE, FBA
11.10-11.40 Tea, coffee, biscuits
'Does Brainpower Go Beyond Computer Power?'   Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE
12.20-1.00 Lunch
1.00-1.40 'Aces High: Building Turing's Universal Machine'   Martin Campbell-Kelly
1.40-2.20 'Computation, Cryptography and the Limits of Human Knowledge: Turing's Legacy'   Avi Wigderson
2.20-3.00 'Breaking the German Codes at Bletchley Park'   Jack Copeland
3.00-3.30 Tea, coffee, biscuits
3.30-4.10 'Rebuilding Turing's Machines: Bombe and Delilah'   John Harper
A spectacular show by Kevin Warwick and Huma Shah with a dazzling
 cast of cyber-entities
5.30 Bar opens
Choice of a guided tour of Bletchley Park and the Turing Exhibition or a demonstration of the rebuilds of Turing's Bombe and Delilah
'Tunny: Hitler's Most Secret Code'   Captain Jerry Roberts
Dine with the day's speakers in Bletchley Park Mansion

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Best Judges in Reading University Turing tests: 23 June 2012

The best adult and the best child judge in Reading University's Turing test contest, on the100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth Saturday 23 June at Bletchley Park, achieved 100% deception-detection rate identifying all the machines and recognising the hidden humans.

Matthew Round will receive Reading University's 'Best Judge' trophy.

Chris Chapman will receive a Raspberry Pi computer.

Reading University's Professor Kevin Warwick

Reports of the event can be found here:

Huffington Post:   [they have their story wrong, 30 judges were not fooled!!!]

Other links:

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Guest Post: Anna Dumitriu, Co-chair TCAC Arts & Culture Committee

Using “Intuition and Ingenuity” – The Turing Centenary and the Arts

By Anna Dumitriu
Director The Institute of Unnecessary Research 

On 23rd June, members of the Turing Centenary Arts and Culture Subcommittee alongside around 100 other lucky people, celebrated the Turing Centenary Day by cruising up the Thames in the 'Dorkboat' in Turing themed fancy dress, with talks by ‘people doing strange things with electricity’ and by myself Anna Dumitriu (Turing Centenary Arts and Culture Subcommittee co-chair) to Watermans Gallery near Kew, where there were more performances, culminating in a 10 minute performance in our specially commissioned Sound Portrait of Alan Turing by Martin A Smith accompanied by a VJ performance by Alex May, as well as the cutting and eating of the a wonderful Turing Centenary celebration cake.

The Sound Portrait used music, found sounds and sound collage. It also featured contributions from Professor Kevin Warwick, Professor Ernest Edmonds, quotations from Alan Turing and poetry from Hallie, aged fifteen from Manchester. The soundscape was generated from Turing Patterns using image to sound software and incorporates recordings of the Bombe, the Second World War and elements from Snow White, a story that meant so much to Alan Turing. The artist’s intent, as in a conventional painted portrait or photograph, was to represent aspects Turing’s character, life and work but in this case by using the medium of sound.

Artist and VJ Alex May created a beautiful, poignent live, improvised video mix to visually interpret Martin’s sound portrait using his own custom software called PatchBox.

Picture courtesy of Normal Flora from flickr

And then we consumed that cake, probably the best cake you will ever see (Turing themed of course), created by Pink Rose Cakes in Brighton. It comprised of a perfectly detailed Enigma Machine, with a little Alan Turing and a tiny apple. Pictures of the cake have been going viral on the web ever since!

But of course this is just a tiny part of the Arts and Culture Subcommittee’s activities for the Centenary. Myself, Nick Lambert (my co-chair) and Sue Gollifer have put together a touring art exhibition entitled “Intuition and Ingenuity” which features work by artists who are strongly inspired by Turing’s life and ideas. It features several new commissions and includes work by Roman Verostko, boredomresearch, Patrick Tresset, Paul Brown, Ernest Edmonds, Gordana Novakovic, William Latham, Greg Garvey, Trope Troupe, Martin A Smith, Sue Gollifer, Anna Dumitriu and Alex May. It’s already been exhibited at Kinetica Art Fair in London, Lighthouse Gallery in Brighton (as part of Brighton Science Festival) and Lovebytes Digital Art Festival in Sheffield, and now it’s continuing to tour for the rest of the year. It’s supported by The Arts Council England, The University of Hertfordshire and The Computer Arts Society. You can find out more about the exhibition and forthcoming venues as well as order the exhibition catalogue via our website.

The next outing will be 2nd -6th July at the:

The AISB/IACAP World Congress in Birmingham (exhibition open to the public).

Monday 2nd July 2012 5pm - 9pm (drinks reception 7-9pm all welcome)

Open daily Tuesday 3rd - Friday 6th July 2012  12-5:30pm (guided tours available on request at the exhibition)

The West Wing Meeting Room
Centre for Professional Development
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT
United Kingdom

Artists Talks Event:  Tuesday 3rd July 10:30am - with Anna Dumitriu and Alex May “Intuition and Ingenuity: Artistic Responses to Turing” as part of the AISB Conference, see conference schedule for location (for conference delegates only).
Ernest Edmonds will also be speaking on Friday 6th July as part of the Turing Arts Symposium (for conference delegates only).

This event is supported by an AISB as a Public Understanding of Artificial Intelligence activity.

© Anna Dumitriu, June 2012

Monday, 25 June 2012

New Scientist article on Reading University's Turing test contest: 23 June 2012

Article on Vladimir Veselov & team's win, by one of the 30 judges in the contest, Celeste Biever in the New Scientist:

"Eugene Goostman, a chatbot imbued with the personality of a 13 year old boy, won the biggest Turing test ever staged, on 23 June, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing.
A veteran of the Loebner prize and the Chatterbox challenge , Eugene was due a win. "We took second place several times but never were we the winners," says Veselov.

Did having a personality give him an advantage? "I think any appearance of a particular personality is likely to have a persuasive effect on judges," says John Barnden, an AI researcher specialising in machine understanding of metaphor at the University of Birmingham, UK, and a fellow judge.
He cautions against concluding that this was Eugene's edge, however - for that you would have to compare two versions of the same bot, but in one case with personality suppressed.
"In my own case it's not so much personality in the abstract that's key as how the system responds to a comment - is the response relevant and non-vacuous?" he adds.

I can sympathise with that: in some cases I knew it was a machine because the entity didn't seem to follow the sense of the conversation. I was however, delighted by how funny, and zany some of the conversations with beings that I labelled as bots (Disclaimer: the best judge award is still to be awarded so I don't actually know how often I was right). They also forced me to consider in a new way, just what it is that makes humans human."

More here.

Eugene Goostman famously deceived Times newspaper journalist Will Pavia in Reading University's staging of the 18th Loebner Prize in 2008: "Machine takes on man at mass Turing Testhere.

Guest Post: Hidden human Matt Whitby from Reading University's 23 June 2012 Turing tests at Bletchley Park

Hidden human H26 Matt Whitby writes of his experience in Reading University's Turing test contest on the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth, 23 June 2012 at Bletchley Park:

"Turing 100.Alan Turing is one of those people of whom my first introduction has
become lost in memory. I do however remember that my first visit to
Bletchley Park would have been before my son was born which would put
it at over fifteen years ago and I distinctly remember being excited at
seeing the room Turing worked in (albeit from the outside).
Whilst being a complete layperson I’ve always had a fascination with
Artificial Intelligence and have had entering the Loebner Contest on my
bucket list for over a decade I saw on Twitter that Reading University was holding a Turing Test at Bletchley Park to celebrate Turing’s 100th anniversary. I tweeted back that it sounded really interesting and I’d do my best to come along. Almost
immediately I got a reply saying there was a place free for being a human in
the upcoming tests if I was free. Well, who would turn down such an
So early on Saturday morning I drove from Berkshire up to Bletchley Park
to take a small part in the test. It would, I thought be fun and would also
potentially give me a better insight into the competition in the event that I
did actually try and enter one day.
I was session four of five and wasn’t due to sit down at a terminal until 1:45
and it was only 9:30 but that was fine because their room was full of super
smart people (well, it’s all relative but they all seemed super smart to me).
There was always someone interesting to talk to. I hung round developers
most of the time but rarely with people who try and give computers the
ability to read a person’s lips, or provide power sources for robots, or
wireless electricity, make swarms of autonomous self-driving cars or talk
about multi-dimensional space.
After coming back from looking at the Bombe (an electromechanical device
used by British cryptologists to help decipher German Enigma-machineencrypted
signals during World War II.) I eagerly sat down for my session.
There were three groups: humans, judges and bots. The judges – as you
would expect – have conversations with both the humans and bots and try
and differentiate between the two. Turing said (and I’m paraphrasing to
bear with me) that if someone could converse with something on a
terminal and be unable to distinguish whether it was a human or a piece of
software then the thing they were communicating with could be said to be
exhibiting intelligent behaviour.
Five developers were pitting their bots against each other; Rollo Carpenter,
Robby Garner, Robert Medeksza, Fred Roberts and Vladimir Veselov.
In each slot the humans spoke to five judges for five minutes each. The
judges always initiated the conversation and only one entry could be
submitted before receiving a response and allowing you to continue with
your next submission. Whether it was due to the slow typing of the judges
or whether the system was deliberately slowing the responses down so the
judges couldn’t tell – by speed of response – between bot or human I
wasn’t sure. In the first round I only got about three responses in before
the screen disappeared which seemed like a pretty small sample of
conversation with which the judge could determine whether it was human
or bot.
You could see some deliberate traps set by the judges. One said to me:
> “I eat too many crisps. Should I see a fireman?”
I would imagine it would be relatively tricky for a bot to have determined
that the question didn’t really make sense and to formulate a response. My
reply was:
> “Not unless you set fire to the saucepan whilst making the crisps.”
My poor joke made me wonder whether a key factor in determining the
humanness of the humans was down to their sense of humour and how
hard that would be to build into a bot’s responses.
Another line of questioning that came up frequently was to refer to
something local to the environment. Was it sunny? Were the rooms too
cold? Information the bot wouldn’t know unless it had been specifically
prompted before the test began.
As soon as the test had begun we’d finished our round of testing and it
was onto the people in round five.
The winning bot was ‘Eugene’ by Vladimir Veselov.
It was an interesting peek behind the curtain at how these tests happen
and I feel slightly more armed at my future entry. Well, if it ever happens.
Thanks to all involved for a great day."
© Matt Whitby June 2012

'Hidden humans' preparing for Judges' questions in Reading University's Turing tests - picture taken in the Ballroom of the mansion at Bletchley Park: Saturday 23 June 2012

Matt can be followed at these links:




Twitter    http://www.twitter.como/mattwhitby


Skype      matt.whitby

Spotify    matt.whitby

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Vladimir Veselov wins 'The Colonnade' trophy in biggest Turing Test contest

Dr. Vladimir Veselov wins 'The Colonnade' trophy for winning machine awarded by Alan Turing's birthplace, The Colonnade Hotel London in Reading University's biggest Turing test contest at Bletchley Park, 23 June 2012.

Vladimir Veselov with 'winning machine' trophy in front of The Colonnade Hotel London (birthplace of Turing)

Congratulations to all five elite developers invited to the contest, Rollo Carpenter, Robby Garner, Robert Medeksza, Fred Roberts and well done to Vladimir's Eugene Goostman team:

Michael Gershkovich
Eugene Demchenko
Sergey Ulasen
Selena Semoushkina
John Denning
Andrey Adashchik
Igor Bykovskih
Laurent Alquier (graphics)

Professor Kevin & Mrs Warwick

Hidden humans: Reading University SSE Researchers 

[Pictures courtesy of Matt Whitby, hidden humans Session 4, 23 June 2012]

Machine developers: Vladimir Veselov (Eugene) & Robert Medeksza (Ultra Hal)

Billiard Room: 4 (C-F) of the 6 Terminals in the Judges' area

Also: BBC Radio 4 TODAY programme featured Alan Turing item on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Saturday 23 June 2012:
This weekend marks the centenary of Alan Turing's birth, a man who committed suicide after being persecuted for his homosexuality and played a crucial role in breaking the German codes during the Second World War. Science correspondent Tom Fielden looks at his life's achievements.
From here.

Exhibitors in the Drawing Room of the Mansion on event day included PwC UKYOUSRC (learn to programme apps), and Artificial Solutions

[Unless stated, pictures courtesy of Vladimir Veselov, winning machine developer]

Friday, 22 June 2012

1 Day to go to Alan Turing's 100th birthday!

Tomorrow, Saturday 23 June 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth and major events are taking place around the globe: in Austin, USA; Bangalore and in Kolkota; India; Daejeon, South Korea;  Manchester, UK;  Manhatten, NY USA, in Milan, Italy, and the University of Reading's biggest Turing test contest at Bletchley Park!

See here for overview of international ALAN TURING YEAR events:

For information on the Turing test contest please see these pages:

Turing100 page

University of Reading

Bletchley Park

Thursday, 21 June 2012

PwC: Crack the ALAN TURING Cypher

PwC UK's coders Jay Abbott and Senad Zukic have created a cypher to "raise awareness of cyber-learning opportunities and careers." in honour of Alan Turing in his centenary year.

PwC, who are exhibiting in the Turing100 event in the mansion at Bletchley Park on the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth, have created the code (see image below) on behalf of the Cyber Security Challenge UK.

[Image from]

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Guest Post: Turing100 Chair, Professor Kevin Warwick

Reading University Cybernetics Professor Kevin Warwick, Chair of the School of Systems Engineering's Turing100 project writes:

"The Turing Test not only asks questions about machine communication, machine consciousness and how a machine thinks - it also causes us to ask important questions about human communication, human consciousness and how a human thinks. The test is merely a challenge that causes us to compare the two - from a human perspective.

 As a result it leads to another interesting feature and that is - how human interogators can be easily fooled not only by other humans but by machines. Even after an interogator has been so fooled it is then difficult to persuade them that they have been. It was Mark Twain who said "It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled".

 Perhaps the most important point here however is that people tend to over-value humans and how they  communicate.  The test considers a comparison between machines and ALL humans - however many humans have little of importance to utter and even then they make many mistakes when they do so - as Agatha Christie put it "Man is an unimaginative animal".

 The largest set of Turing Tests ever, at Bletchley Park on June 23rd, will give us an insight into how far the best machines have come. But maybe they will tell us even more about ourselves as humans than they do about their own individuality."

© Kevin Warwick 2012 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Guest Post by Alan Turing Year Chair: Professor S. Barry Cooper

Professor S. Barry Cooper Chair of the Alan Turing Centenary Year writes a guest post for this blog:

"The Alan Turing Year has turned out to be beyond anything people expected,even two years ago. All over the world there are people for whom AlanTuring means something very special. It turns out there areTuring-followers in unexpected places like Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong ...high school students in Beijing, computer scientists in Kolkata,philosophers in Manila. More and more it is obvious that it is the meaningof Turing's life and science for us now, and the vitality of his thinkingabout how the world works, that carries such a burden of very personalsignificance for so many of us.
Last night I was at the premier of Patrick Sammon's "editor's cut" of his"Codebreaker" film (showed last November on Channel 4). Bob Lubarsky, gaymathematician extraordinaire was speaking first, and it was a realkaleidoscope of takes on being a gay scientist. I liked the lightly ironicplay on Alan Turing's 'crime' as a victimless one. No, he said there was avictim - Alan himself. And then he quoted that oft repeated description of"the law as it was at the time" - which made the crime - the one againstAlan Turing - a "perpetratorless crime".
After fulfilling my promise to Bob to go to his talk, I meant to be offback to work (working until the early hours most nights on Alan'scentenary year), but was immediately gripped by the Patrick Sammon filmbefore I could get to the door, and intrigued to see what other materialhe'd included in the new version. It was great, and a must-see for anyonecares about Turing and his science. But I still wanted to see morelesser-known people. For instance, such unique Manchester figures as:Bernard Richards who was Alan Turing's MSc student in the years beforeAlan's death, and speaks so interestingly on the emergence of patterns innature, and tells such interesting stories of Alan's foibles and genius -Bernard was in the audience that evening, maybe hoping to see hisinterview validated on film before catching his train back to Manchester;and Alan Edwards, who used to visit the same gay haunts of Manchester asAlan Turing, and can really relate what it was like to be gay in a bignorthern city in the early 1950s - and they do have him on film. I was atschool at that time, on the south coast, but know in a way younger peoplecan't easily what a foreign country the past is. No huge Gay Pride marchesin the Manchester of those days.
Whenever I think about Alan's drive to explore the limits ofcomputability, I can't help thinking about how real-world incomputabilitycatches us all out, and certainly did Alan Turing in his final years. Howhe was fascinated with human thinking and what nature is doing, and howthere is still so much left for us to try and make sense of - in fact, hedid say something like that: "We can only see a short distance ahead, butwe can see plenty there that needs to be done." As we grapple withproblems in science and in life, we often find Turing's been there before us."

 © Professor S. Barry Cooper 2012

Alan Turing; "refused to allow himself to be compartmentalised in any way"

Article in The Telegraph points Alan Turing the genius and original thinker who "refused to allow himself to be compartmentalised in any way, professionally or personally. This extraordinary mind roamed anywhere that took its interest."

Read more here.

Science Museum London's 'Alan Turing Life and Legacy' exhibition opens Thursday June 21 for one year with free admission. Information on opening times and how to get to the Museum here.

[Turing statue picture taken at University of Surrey by Adrian Ogden, ITNG Reading University]

Saturday, 16 June 2012

One week to Alan Turing's 100th birthday

One week to go to the biggest Turing test contest honouring Alan Turing at Bletchley Park on the anniversary of his birth: Saturday 23 June.

From The Independent:

"Alan Turing, the brilliant, maverick mathematician, widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, invented an electromagnetic machine called the 'bombe' which formed the basis for deciphering Germany’s Enigma codes.
The man himself has rather eluded definition: painted (too easily) as a nutty professor with a squeaky voice; as a quirky, haphazard character with a sloppy appearance by his mother and schoolmasters; by colleagues as a gruff, socially awkward man; and by his friends as an open-hearted, generous and gentle soul.
The crucial contribution Turing made at Bletchley Park, one that has been credited with shortening the war by two years and saving countless lives, did not become public knowledge until twenty years after his death. His mother, brother and friends did not know until long after they’d mourned him, the extent of his heroism.
He was found dead on 7 June 1954, a few weeks before his 42nd birthday, after biting into an apple laced with cyanide. This ‘Snow White’ suicide is particularly resonant given his enjoyment of the 1937 Disney film of the fairy-tale."

Read more here.

[Pictures taken by Huma Shah at Bletchley Park, Friday 15 June 2012]

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Guest Post: Professor Stevan Harnad


Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Sciences
Département de psychologie
Université du Québec à Montréal
University of Southampton, UK

Alan Turing made countless invaluable and eternal contributions to knowledge -- the computer, computation, limits of provability, neural nets, the Turing test, breaking the Enigma code that helped save the world from Nazi tyranny -- before cruel injustice and ingratitude ended his short life.

I want to enlarge on just one thread in all he has done: The Turing Test set the agenda for what later came to be called "cognitive science" -- the reverse-engineering of the capacity of humans (and other animals) to think.

What is thinking? It is not something we can observe. It goes on in our heads. We do it, but we don't know how we do it. We are waiting for cognitive science to explain to us how we -- or rather our brains -- do it.

What we can observe is what we do, and what we are capable of doing. Turing's contribution was to make it quite explicit that our goal should be to explain how we can do what we can do by designing a model that can do what we can do, and to do it so well that we cannot tell the model apart from one of us, based only on what it does and can do. The causal mechanism that generates the model's doing-capacity will be the explanation of thinking, intelligence, understanding, knowledge -- all just examples of, or synonyms for: cognition.

Turing actually formulated (what eventually came to be called) the Turing Test (TT) somewhat differently. He called it the "Imitation Game," and in order to rule out any bias that might influence our judgment because of the way the TT candidate looked -- rather than just what it could do -- the test was to be purely verbal, via the exchange of written messages, with the candidate out of sight. Today we would say that the test had to be conducted via email: Design a system that can communicate by email, as a pen-pal, indistinguishably from a human, to a human, and you have explained cognition.

Questions arise: (1) Communicate about what? (2) how long? (3) with how many humans?

The answers, of course, are: (1) Communicate about anything that any human can communicate about verbally via email,  (2) for a lifetime, and (3) with as many people as any human is able to communicate with.

This is a tall order, and it still leaves open the fourth question: (4) How? The answer, of course, will be to design the winning model, and cognitive science is nowhere near being able to do that, but there is a sub-question about what kind of system the winning model will be.

Many people have assumed that Turing had meant and expected the TT-passer to be a purely computational system. Computation, as Turing taught us, is the manipulation of symbols (e.g., 0's and 1's, but they could also be words) on the basis of purely formal rules that operate only on the shapes of the symbols, not their meaning (i.e., syntax, not semantics).

An example of such a formal, shape-based rule is: IF YOU READ "1 + 1  =" THEN WRITE "2".

You don't need to know what "1" or "+" means in order to follow that rule. You just need to know what to do with the shapes.

That's computation. And that's basically what a "Turing Machine" (the abstract precursor of the computer) does.

But did Turing really mean that he thought cognition would turn out to be just computation? The "computationalists" among contemporary cognitive scientists think cognition is just computation, but I don't think Turing did. The Turing Test as he described it was just an email pen-pal test: only symbols in and symbols out. That does leave the possibility that the only thing needed in between, to successfully pass the test, is symbol-manipulation (computation).

But the philosopher, John Searle showed, with his famous "Chinese Room" thought-experiment, that this cannot be true: cognition cannot be just computation. For if just a computer program were enough to pass the Turing Test, Searle himself could show that that would not generate understanding in the system that was passing the Turing Test:

Searle asks us to suppose that the Turing Test (TT) is conducted in Chinese (Chinese email, with real Chinese pen-pals). Now since computation is just rules for manipulating symbols based on their shapes, not their meanings, Searle himself could memorize and execute that same TT-passing computer program, yet he would not be understanding Chinese. But then neither would the computer that was executing the TT-passing program. Hence cognition is not just computation.

What is missing to make symbols meaningful, the way words and thoughts are meaningful to us? I've dubbed this the "symbol grounding problem": Consider a Chinese-Chinese dictionary. It defines all the words in Chinese. But if you don't already know at least the meaning of some Chinese words, the definitions of the meaningless symbols only lead to more meaningless symbols, not to meaning. Some of the symbols, at least, have to be "grounded" in what the symbols denote directly, rather than just via meaningless, formal verbal definitions.

Consider the symbol string "'zebra' = 'horse' + 'stripes'." To be able to understand that definition, you have to already know what "horse" and "stripes" mean. And that can't go on via just definitions all the way down ("stripes" = "horizontal" + "lines," etc.). Some words have to be grounded directly in our capacity to recognize, categorize, manipulate, name and describe the things in the world that the words denote. This goes beyond mere computation, which is just formal symbol manipulation, to sensorimotor dynamics, in other words, not just verbal capacity but robotic capacity.

So I do not believe that Turing was a computationalist: he did not think that thinking was just computation. He was perfectly aware of the possibility that in order to be able to pass the verbal TT (only symbols in and symbols out) the candidate system would have to be a sensorimotor robot, capable of doing a lot more than the verbal TT tests directly, and drawing on those dynamic capacities in order to successful pass the verbal TT.

But although Turing was not a computationalist about cognition, he was nevertheless a computationalist in the more general sense that he believed that just about any physical, dynamical structure or process (including planetary motion, chemical reactions, and robotic sensorimotor dynamics) could be simulated and approximated by computation as closely as we like. This is called the physical version of the "Church-Turing" Thesis (CT). (The mathematical version of CT is the thesis that Turing's formal definition of computation -- the Turing Machine -- can do anything and everything that mathematicians do when they "compute" something.)

The physical CT does not imply, however, that everything in the physical world is just computation, because everyone knows that a computer simulation of (say) a plane, is not a plane, flying (even if it can simulate flying well enough to help test and design plane prototypes computationally, without having to build and test them physically, and even if the computation can generate a virtual reality simulation that the human senses cannot distinguish from the real thing -- till they take off their goggles and gloves).

So Searle is simply pointing out that the same is true of computational simulations of verbal cognition: If they can be done purely computationally, that does not mean that the computations are cognizing.

Computations cognizing? What on earth does that mean? Well, to answer that question, we have to turn to another philosopher: Descartes. How does Searle know that he is not understanding Chinese when he is passing the Chinese TT by memorizing and executing the TT-passing computer program? It is because it feels like something to understand Chinese. And the only one who knows for sure whether that feeling (or any feeling at all) is going on is the cognizer -- who is in this case Searle himself.

The contribution of Descartes' celebrated "Cogito" is that I can be absolutely certain that I am cognizing when I am cognizing. I can doubt anything else, including what my cognizing seems to be telling me about the world, but I can't doubt that I'm cognizing when I'm cognizing. That would be like doubting I'm feeling a toothache when I am feeling a toothache: I can doubt whether the pain is coming from my tooth -- it might be referred pain from my jaw -- I may not even have a tooth, or a mouth, or a body; there may be no outside world, nor any yesterday or tomorrow. But I cannot doubt that what it feels like right now is what it feels like right now.

Well Searle is not feeling the understanding of Chinese when he passes the Chinese TT. He can distinguish real understanding (as he understands English) from just going through the motions: just doing the doing.

But where does this leave Turing's test, then, which is based purely on doings and doing-capacity, indistinguishable from the doing capacity of real, cognizing human beings?

Turing was perfectly aware that generating the capacity to do does not necessarily generate the capacity to feel. He merely pointed out that explaing doing power was the best we could ever expect to do, scientifically, if we wished to explain cognition. The successful TT-passing model may not turn out to be purely computational; it may be both computational and dynamic; but it is still only generating and explaining our doing capacity. It may or may not feel.

Explaining how and why we can do what we can do has come to be called the "easy" problem of cognitive science (though it is hardly that easy, since we are nowhere near solving it). The "hard" problem is explaining how and why we feel -- the problem of consciousness -- and of course we are even further from solving that one.

In commemoration of Turing's 2012 centenary the Cognitive Sciences Institute of Universite du Quebec a Montreal is hosting a 10-day Summer Institute on the Evolution and Function of Consciousness (plus a 3-day practical workshop on measuring consciousness) from June 29 to July 12 in Montreal. Over 50 computer scientists, roboticists, neuroscientists, biologists, psychologists and philosophers (including John Searle, Dan DennettAntonio Damasio, Joseph E. LeDoux and Simon Baron-Cohen) will present the current state of the art in the attempt to give a causal explanation of how and why we feel rather than just do. For those who cannot attend in person, the videos of most of the talks will be available on the web as of the day after each presentation.

Harnad, S. (1992) The Turing Test Is Not A Trick: Turing Indistinguishability Is A Scientific CriterionSIGART Bulletin 3(4) (October 1992) pp. 9 - 10.

Harnad, S. (1994) Levels of Functional Equivalence in Reverse Bioengineering: The Darwinian Turing Test for Artificial Life. Artificial Life 1(3): 293-301. Reprinted in: C.G. Langton (Ed.). Artificial Life: An Overview. MIT Press 1995

Harnad, S. (2000) Minds, Machines, and Turing: The Indistinguishability of Indistinguishables. Journal of Logic, Language, and Information 9(4): 425-445. (special issue on "Alan Turing and Artificial Intelligence") 

Harnad, S. (2001) Minds, Machines and Searle II: What's Wrong and Right About Searle's Chinese Room Argument?  In: M. Bishop & J. Preston (eds.) Essays on Searle's Chinese Room Argument. Oxford University Press.

Harnad, S. (2002)  Darwin, Skinner, Turing and the Mind.  (Inaugural Address. Hungarian Academy of Science.) Magyar Pszichologiai Szemle LVII (4) 521-528.

Harnad, S. (2002) Turing Indistinguishability and the Blind Watchmaker. In: J. Fetzer (ed.) Evolving Consciousness Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Pp. 3-18. 

Harnad, S. and Dror, I. (2006) Distributed Cognition: Cognizing, Autonomy and the Turing Test. Pragmatics & Cognition 14. 

Harnad, S; Blondin-Massé; A, St-Louis, B; Chicoisne, G; Gargouri, Y; & Picard, O.  (2008)   Symbol Grounding, Turing Testing and Robot Talking. RoadMap Workshop on Action and Language Integration, Rome on 22-24 September 2008.  

Harnad, S. and Scherzer, P. (2008) First, Scale Up to the Robotic Turing Test, Then Worry About Feeling. Artificial Intelligence in Medicine 44(2): 83-89

Harnad, S. (2008) The Annotation Game: On Turing (1950) on Computing, Machinery and Intelligence.  In: Epstein, Robert & Peters, Grace (Eds.) Parsing the Turing Test: Philosophical and Methodological Issues in the Quest for the Thinking Computer. Springer 

Harnad, Stevan (2012) The Causal Topography of Cognition. [in special issue: A Computational Foundation for the Study of Cognition] Journal of Cognitive Science, 13, (2)

Searle, John R. (1980) Minds, brains, and programs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3): 417-57

Turing, A.M. (1950) Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Mind 49: 433-460

© Professor Stevan Harnad

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

'The Turing Solution' from BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4's The Turing Solution  on BBC iPlayer here:

Professor Jack Copeland interviewed in programme - other details about the show below:

"Alan Turing, born June 23 1912, is famous for his key role in breaking German codes in World War 2. But for mathematicians, his greatest work was on the invention of the computer.
Alan Turing's brilliance at maths was spectacular. Aged 22, just a year after his graduation, he was elected a fellow of King's College Cambridge. And it was just a year after that, that he turned his attention to problems in the foundations of mathematics and ended up showing that a simple machine, set up to read and write numbers and to run a few basic functions, could in principle do all the things that are do-able in mathematics. His 'universal' machine was just a concept - a paper tape that could be read, interpreted and acted on robotically. But the concept was profound.
World War II shortly afterwards took Turing's talents into other directions, but even while designing machines at Bletchley Park to break the German Enigma codes, he was wondering how much more a computing machine might do - play chess for example.
And although the war work might have delayed Turing's academic work, it greatly accelerated progress in electronics, so that in 1945 he returned to his first love, creating a complete design for what he expected to be the world's first fully programmable computer, the National Physical Laboratory's ACE - the Automatic Computing Engine. In the end, beset by hesitation and bureaucratic delays, the ACE was overtaken by a rival team in Manchester, whose Small Scale Experimental Machine first ran on June 21 1948. But the Manchester Baby, as it became known, fulfilled the requirements laid down in Turing's seminal 1936 paper, and in a handful of instructions had the power to do any kind of maths, or data processing, like a computer of today does.
Turing soon joined the Manchester team, and again with remarkable prescience started work on artificial intelligence, wondering whether electronic machines could programmed not just to do maths, but to think in the way human minds do - a hot topic of debate even now.
Those explorations were cut short by his suicide in 1954, following prosecution for his homosexuality. His death at a time when official secrecy still hid his code-breaking work, and when the history of computing was already being written meant that few appreciated his central role in today's dominant industry. But some enthusiasts hope they can write him back in where he belongs.
Presenter, Standup Mathematician Matt Parker."

From here .

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