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Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared

Alan Turing (1912 – 1954) was the father of the modern computer. “Machines take me by surprise with great frequency.”

Alan Turing

Alan Turing age 4

Alan Turing

Alan Turing, philosopher

Quotations from Alan Turing from, Google, WikiQuote, Video simple Turing machine, Video lecture about Turing, – COMPUTING MACHINERY AND INTELLIGENCE (pdf of 1950 article)


Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically as the exercise of a combination of two facilities, which we may call intuition and ingenuity. The activity of the intuition consists in making spontaneous judgements which are not the result of conscious trains of reasoning… The exercise of ingenuity in mathematics consists in aiding the intuition through suitable arrangements of propositions, and perhaps geometrical figures or drawings.

We are leaving out of account that most important faculty which distinguishes topics of interest from others; in fact, we are regarding the function of the mathematician as simply to determine the truth or falsity of propositions.

Instruction tables will have to be made up by mathematicians with computing experience and perhaps a certain puzzle-solving ability. There need be no real danger of it ever becoming a drudge, for any processes that are quite mechanical may be turned over to the machine itself.

A man provided with paper, pencil, and rubber, and subject to strict discipline, is in effect a universal machine.

Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition.

The Exclusion Principle is laid down purely for the benefit of the electrons themselves, who might be corrupted (and become dragons or demons) if allowed to associate too freely.

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.

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency.

The idea behind digital computers may be explained by saying that these machines are intended to carry out any operations which could be done by a human computer.

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.

I am not very impressed with theological arguments whatever they may be used to support. Such arguments have often been found unsatisfactory in the past. In the time of Galileo it was argued that the texts, “And the sun stood still… and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (Joshua x. 13) and “He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not move at any time” (Psalm cv. 5) were an adequate refutation of the Copernican theory.

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.

We are not interested in the fact that the brain has the consistency of cold porridge.

“No, I’m not interested in developing a powerful brain. All I’m after is just a mediocre brain, something like the President of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.”


COMMENTS:

The quotes above from Turing don’t seem to delve into philosophical tonalities, and yet his statement, “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,” attempted to cut to the core of our probable future as seen from the early 1950’s.

Here it is a decade into Turing’s next century and people are still quibbling about whether computers are “thinking”, even though they are incredibly more powerful than he could have expected. The reason for this quibble is simple enough; people are more sophisticated than we have been giving them credit for being. Furthermore, with access to the web most people now have more information, and they have the ability to manipulate it to their personal uses more easily than could have been expected, and thus they are functionally more powerful than expected.

The ability to speak was humanity’s first great leap into manipulation of their future reality, then with writing another great leap for some, then printing made much knowledge accessible to multitudes, and now with a functioning internet with access by everyone to everything approaching we are almost at what in Classic times was called, The Apocalypse. That term is often thought of as the unveiling of man to everything and the unveiling of every individual’s inmost secrets to everyone. For those of us valuing personal privacy this is an unpleasant thought, and yet most of classic humanity lived in personal situations where everyone they knew had access to each others entire life experience. In the not distant future, this generation, people will expect to be totally exposed and will be compelled to be comfortable with that mode of living. Those of us who are now adult may have serious trouble with this new world, and might do ourselves a favor by mentally adapting to that eventuality now, while we are still mentally flexible enough to do it.

The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive by Brian Christian is a serious and fun read related to the Turing test and helped me to appreciate those people I meet who manifest human qualities. A surprising thing is, that once you become sensitized to what human behavior is, you will notice that many people are not as flexible as one would expect a human to be, but choose to be rather rigid and mechanistic.

The Apocalypse is nigh, but hopefully we will enjoy it.