What did Alan Turing mean?

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What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Dave_C on March 18th, 2015, 9:33 pm 

I happened to stumble across BiV’s thread from last year regarding the movie, “The Imitation Game”. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, but after reading the reviews, I decided maybe I didn't need to see it after all.
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=28258

BiV's thread reminded me of a paper I thought worth sharing. It’s not that it’s thought provoking and I’m sure there’s a lot of folks here who can appreciate the twists it takes, but I think what strikes me about this paper is its compassionate treatment of Turing and how his landmark paper, “Computing machinery and intelligence” may actually contain encrypted meaning that reflects on the tribulations in Alan Turing’s life. Below are a few excerpts from that paper by Cowen and Dawson entitled, “What does the Turing test really mean? And how many human beings (including Turing) could pass?”.
https://www.gmu.edu/centers/publicchoic ... gfinal.pdf
Turing’s paper is rich and multi-faceted and we are not seeking to overturn all of the extant interpretations. We do wish to suggest that a potent and indeed subversive perspective in the paper has been underemphasized. Some of the message of Turing’s paper is encouraging us to take a broader perspective on intelligence and some of his points are ethical in nature. …



Our interpretation fits the broad outlines of Turing’s life. Turing was gay and he was persecuted for this difference in a manner which led to his eventual suicide. In mainstream British society of that time, he proved unable to consistently “pass” for straight. Interestingly, the second paragraph of his paper starts with the question of whether a male or female can pass for a member of the other gender in a typed conversation. …



It also has been speculated that Turing was autistic or Asperger’s, which suggests his mind was of a very different nature, compared to most of the people he knew. Turing probably was not aware of these neurodevelopmental concepts as such (they had not yet entered standard English-language discourse), but surely he knew, growing up, that he was in some ways very different from others. In public school he was judged to be “ludicrously behind” with “the worst” writing ever encountered, and he was singled out as “bound to be a problem for any school or community.” … Turing himself could not pass a test of imitation, namely that of imitating the people he met in mainstream British society, and for most of his life he was acutely aware that he was failing imitation tests in a variety of ways. …



Turing never uses the phrase “Turing test” in his paper, but instead refers to the “imitation game.” …



In other words, he closes with a call for pragmatism, a recognition and mobilization of many different forms of intelligence, and again he is warning us that imitation isn’t everything. Equating indistinguishable with intelligence may be a serious error. We read Turing as offering an implicit ethical admonition. Turing himself could not “pass” as “normal” in the world of his time and he wasn’t so concerned that machines couldn’t “pass” either. Intelligence will continue to pop up in surprising and indeed hard to recognize forms. …

The authors were understandably proud of their work. You can read from their blogs below:
Cowen: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalr ... -mean.html
Dawson: http://autismcrisis.blogspot.com/2009/0 ... essay.html
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Darby on March 18th, 2015, 11:36 pm 

The movie is very definitely worth seeing.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby neuro on March 19th, 2015, 3:44 am 

Dave_C » March 19th, 2015, 2:33 am wrote:I happened to stumble across BiV’s thread from last year regarding the movie, “The Imitation Game”. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, but after reading the reviews, I decided maybe I didn't need to see it after all.

Well, I believe you actually needn't seeing it, after what you report: you already got the message.

However, I felt that such message was there, in the movie, and - as it is the case when a film-maker manages to introduce a significant message in her movie - it stands out with noticeable clarity and hits the viewer quite profoundly.

MHO.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby neuro on March 19th, 2015, 3:50 am 

P.S.
There is a scene many may not recall, which hit me as particularly to the point.
Young Touring talking with a fellow student who explains him what "cryptography" is: saying / writing something to mean something else... and he says "like when people talk".
(the words are not these, probably, but the dis-ease of the autistic person is incredibly well described by that brief scene)
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Darby on March 19th, 2015, 8:55 am 

Dave_C » March 18th, 2015, 9:33 pm wrote:I happened to stumble across BiV’s thread from last year regarding the movie, “The Imitation Game”. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, but after reading the reviews, I decided maybe I didn't need to see it after all. http://www.sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=28258


Turing was the father of my primary career field (computer science), and forgive me for professionally squeeing a little here, but his intellectual greatness is hard to adequately do justice to.

I saw the movie (with my wife) as soon as it came out, and yes, even though it is rife with some hefty historical inaccuracies, it's still very much worth seeing ... an opinion shared by the very article you linked as reason NOT to see it (reread the last paragraph). Seriously, if I had a dollar for every screenwriter that crapped his pants on accuracy while writing a hollywood histodrama, I'd be wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. Anyone who likes the genre at all must resign themselves to this ... suspending ones need for accuracy here is no different than the suspension of disbelief required in the fantasy genre.

I haven't read the paper by cowen and dawson that you linked yet, so for the moment I'll stop here. My expectations are a bit low however, because outside of the realm of serious Computer Scientists, Mathematicians and Professional Historians, most people who've written about figures like Turing tend (IMO) to fall into the category of ankle biting attention addicts, who compulsively gnaw at the tattered dignity of their late betters. Just a personal opinion, not a statement of fact.

As a footnote - sitting though the credits, it was simultaneously gratifying, and eye rolling, to see the British Crown posthumously rectify the disservice that was done to Turing. This extremely well written article does an excellent job of explaining the why of both. I wont cheapen the article by posting excerpts ... the article merits reading in its entirety.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Braininvat on March 19th, 2015, 10:23 am 

Darby made the point I wanted to - my earlier posting of the bio-pic errors was not a disrecommend of seeing it. Has some fine acting and moments that do really capture some of AT's struggles.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Dave_C on March 20th, 2015, 7:10 am 

Thanks for the comments on the movie. I'll have to go see it now.

Try the paper. We've all heard of the "Turing Test" for consciousness. I've never considered it a test for phenomenal consciousness but I like the explanation of the "imitation game". It makes a lot more sense to me the way they've interpreted Turing's paper.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Darby on March 20th, 2015, 8:26 am 

I'm already familiar with the Turing test ... its an important concept in my primary career field. In fact, it was an AI reference in hollywood that first drew me to computers back in the 1970's: HAL-9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey), and before that the little known compsci-thriller "Colossus: The Forbin Project".

The whole sub-field of AI has essentially been a slightly disturbing yet long unrealized dream in the computer field. Until now it has largely been the province of SciFi, but with the ever increasing proliferation of fairly powerful computers into all the fingers of our daily lives, the ability of programs to 'imitate' human behavior is creeping ever closer to the uncanny valley. Nowadays, we even have programs like 'siri' on our smart phones.

If you want an example of the uncanny valley, here's Project Kara that went viral a few years back on youtube:



One of the most familiar hollywood examples in pop culture that evokes the general metaphor and function of a Turing test is the Voight-Kampff test that appears in the 1982 movie Bladerunner, and was used by human resources personel and police in the movie to help screen out replicants. The entire movie was, in effect, the writers rubbing the viewer's face into the uncanny valley mentioned above, and the Turing Test that offered the dangling thread back to the comforting reality of being able to tell reality from fiction.



Other examples abound in literature and the movies, including apps that not only challenge our ability to tell fact from fantasy, but also exceed even the very best of human performace (ex: Deep Blue vs Kasparov in the realm of chess), but to keep things brief I'll stop here.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Dave_C on March 20th, 2015, 8:57 am 

Hi Darby. Do you think Turing meant his "imitation game" to be a test for phenomenal consciousness (ie: strong AI)? The paper implies he didn't. Is there any evidence Turing even had a concept of phenomenal consciousness?
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Braininvat on March 20th, 2015, 9:49 am 

Reading the paper, I am reminded of a fellow at my former workplace of whom we used to say, he wouldn't pass a Turing test. The paper is a useful reminder that a different style of cognition may, however atypical, still be intelligence in the stronger sense.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Darby on March 20th, 2015, 9:56 am 

Dave_C » March 20th, 2015, 8:57 am wrote:Hi Darby. Do you think Turing meant his "imitation game" to be a test for phenomenal consciousness (ie: strong AI)? The paper implies he didn't. Is there any evidence Turing even had a concept of phenomenal consciousness?


Forgive the metaphor, but I think it's apt here: I think perhaps some people might be having a hard time seeing the forest though the trees on this question.

To elaborate: I havent read turing's paper on the subject since my freshman year of college back in 1981. However, even if Turing didn't put it specifically into those particular words, I'm fairly sure that he did have a concept for 'phenomenal consciousness', because it is the obvious {if not unavoidable} ultimate consequence of the very concept of AI (or machine imitation if you will). To me, that's like implying that the inventor of the wheel couldn't envision a cart.

Zooming out for a moment, one of the essential aspects of the scientific approach to a newly formed concept is to extend said concept to its boundary conditions and apply the breakage test, to see where it does and does not fall apart. That concept/technique of 'formulate and stress unto breakage' permeates ALL scientific thought, and to me, Turing's test is just one manifestation of the same concept applied (in this instance) to the increasingly blurred line separating human behavior from machine behavior that's designed to imitate and/or stand in for it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computing ... telligence

All in all, against the backdrop of 1950, I think he did an extraordinary job of being the first to raise and take the first meaningfulk stab at the topic. It's something that we'll continue to wrestle with for the forseeable future, as the uncanny valley gets ever closer.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Dave_C on March 20th, 2015, 12:27 pm 

Darby » March 20th, 2015, 8:56 am wrote:Zooming out for a moment, one of the essential aspects of the scientific approach to a newly formed concept is to extend said concept to its boundary conditions and apply the breakage test, to see where it does and does not fall apart. That concept/technique of 'formulate and stress unto breakage' permeates ALL scientific thought, ...

Could you explain the breakage test and provide a reference? I've never heard of it and Googling it doesn't seem to bring anything up.
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Re: What did Alan Turing mean?

Postby Darby on March 20th, 2015, 12:49 pm 

{from cellphone, sorry for typos}

Differrnt science oriented fields have different terms for it, and there doesnt seem to be a single agreed upon name for it, aside from it being inherent to the scientific method in general.

In comp sci for instance, people use terms like "strawman concept", which after it gets beaten on and improved gets promoted to a sturdier metaphorical material. For software development you start with an alpha that the dev team beats on to refine it into a beta that outsiders beat on and help refine it into a release candidate for 1.0.

In automotive testing you have crash test dummies.

In science you start with a hypothesis, verbally beat on and refine it with colleagues into a formalized theory for publication/release, and then everyone is invited to do everything possible to disprove it, after which it can ascend to the status of natural law and/or establish fact.

Almost every field as a process like that somewhere in it's path towards the advancement of knowledge.

See the pattern ? Formulate idea, refine, stress to breakage, refine some more, stress some more, and ultimately accept or reject based on ability to predict/explain and resist disproval ... the stress/test to breakage is inherent every step of the way.
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