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Testing for subjectivity

How do we know whether something else has a mind? Watch as Mark Solms describes the Turing Test and some of the problems associated with this approach

In order to perform scientific experiments on the mind, we need an objective criterion for determining whether something else has a mind or not.

Mathematician, Alan Turing, designed the Turing Test for this very purpose. Alan Turing is sometimes referred to as the father of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence because of the work he did on describing the types of problems a machine could theoretically solve. Such a machine is similar to a present day computer. Alan Turing also imagined intelligent machines. His test involved a human judge engaging in conversations with both a person and an ‘intelligent’ machine. The conversation would be conducted via a computer keyboard and screen so the judge remains unaware of the machine’s inability to speak. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The test does not focus on the correctness of answers to questions, but rather the judge is considering how closely each answer resembles the answer a human might have given.

In this course we are considering related questions, but drawing on more recent understandings of the mind. Since, as I argued, the starting point of a mind is that it has subjectivity, a flaw of the Turing Test would be that it excludes this defining property of the mind. It also excludes non-verbal communication and physical appearance, which are important for determining whether something has subjectivity. Alan Turing was rooted in a behaviourist way of thinking that was widely held at the time.

In recent demonstrations of advanced computers’ ability to be competitive in quiz shows, chess and other human activities, there was no need to hide which participant was the machine. Given that the Turing Test does not consider subjectivity, how might one determine whether something else has subjective experiences?

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What is a Mind?

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