In Section 1.1 of Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, it is stated that a computer which passes the Turing Test would need 4 capabilities, and that these 4 capabilities comprise most of the field of Artificial Intelligence:

  1. natural language processing: to enable it to communicate successfully in English

  2. knowledge representation: to store what it knows and hears

  3. automated reasoning: to use the stored information to answer questions and to draw new conclusions

  4. machine learning: to adapt to new circumstances and to detect and extrapolate patterns

Did Alan Turing discern the requirements for the field of artificial intelligence (the necessary subfields) and purposefully design a test around these requirements, or did he simply design a test that is so general that the subfields which developed within artificial intelligence happen to be what is required to solve it? That is, was he prescient or lucky? Are these Turing's subdivisions, or Peter Norvig's and Stuart Russell's?

If Turing did foresee these 4 requirements, what did he base them on? What principles of intelligence allowed him to predict the requirements for the field?


1 Answer 1


I find it unlikely that you'll find a firm answer, so I will try my best to guide you towards information which may help you form an opinion either way. Turing had the controversial opinion (which remains controversial today) that:

Digital computers have often been described as mechanical brains. Most scientists probably regard this description as a mere newspaper stunt, but some do not. One mathematician has expressed the opposite point of view to me rather forcefully in the words “It is commonly said that these machines are not brains, but you and I know that they are.” […] I shall give most attention to the view which I hold myself, that it is not altogether unreasonable to describe digital computers as brains.

In essence Turing believed that the digital computers of the time had the capacity to mimic the human brain if programmed correctly. The problem for Turing then, was finding the correct procedures to mimic the brain. Remember the Imitation Game was being used as a means to explore the question "can machines think?" Turing was engaging in an intellectual debate about the nature of "thinking", he was not making an attempt to describe how machines would be taught to think.

Since, both artificial intelligence and machine learning are at their core very similar to "artificial thinking" (as Turing may have called it) it seems necessary that a test designed to decide whether machines can think would also encompass whether machines could be intelligent or whether machines could learn.

Therefore, it seems possible that Turing did not make the question with these capabilities in mind, but rather that these capabilities are what guided Turing to this question as they are so innately tied to thinking.

If you would like to look further into Turing's thought process here is his paper on the imitation game and here is a discussion on the proceedings of a BBC broadcast about "Automatic Calculating Machines" in which Turing was a speaker.

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    $\begingroup$ Very interesting. What precisely do you mean by "these capabilities... are so innately tied to thinking." Do we have any sources/reasons to believe that these 4 capabilities are a breakdown of the process of thinking? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ When we talk about thinking we often use words like remember, learn, and reason as components of thinking. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 16:10

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