Turing Quotes

Alan Turing may have made this up as a spoof of Arthur Eddington, or he might be quoting Eddington:

'Hyperboloids of wondrous light
Rolling for age through Space and Time
Harbour there Waves which somehow Might
Play out God’s holy pantomime'

Alan Turing (AMT/D/4 image 16)


'The [imitation] game may perhaps be criticised on the ground that the odds are weighted too heavily against the machine. If the man were to try and pretend to be the machine he would clearly make a very poor showing. He would be given away at once by slowness and inaccuracy in arithmetic.'

Alan Turing (AMT/B/19 image 3)


‘The original question, ‘Can machines think’ I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the [20th] 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.’

Alan Turing (AMT/B/19 image 10)


‘The popular view that scientists proceed inexorably from well-established fact to well-established fact, never being influenced by any unproved conjecture, is quite mistaken. Provided it is made clear which are proved facts and which are conjectures, no harm can result. Conjectures are of great importance since they suggest useful lines of research.’

Alan Turing (AMT/B/19 image 10)


Presenting arguments against the hope of artificial intelligence, Turing notes that they included that ‘you will never be able to make [a machine] to do’ any of these:

Be kind, resourceful, beautiful, friendly, have initiative, have a sense of humour, tell right from wrong, make mistakes, fall in love, enjoy strawberries and cream, make someone fall in love with it, learn from experience, use words properly, be the subject of its own thought, have as much diversity of behaviour as a man, do something really new.

Alan Turing (AMT/B/19 image 15)


The relationship between artificial intelligence, and Alan's interest in morphogenesis - how biological 'programming' affects development - is encapsulated in comments he made on a BBC programme in 1951:

'...it is not altogether unreasonable to describe digital computers as brains...For any one calculation the whole procedure that the machine is to go through is planned out in advance by a mathematician. The less doubt there is about what is going to happen the better the mathematician is pleased...it is fair to say that the machine doesn't originate anything...If it is accepted that real brains, as found in animals, and in particular in men, are a sort of machine it will follow that our digital computer suitably programmed, will behave like a brain...I think it is probable for instance that at the end of the [20th] century it will be possible to programme a machine to answer questions in such a way that it will be extremely difficult to guess whether the answers are being given by a man or by the machine.'

Alan Turing (AMT/B/5 pages 1, 2 and 4-5)


'If a machine can think, it might think more intelligently than we do, and then where should we be?'

Alan Turing (AMT/B/5 page 7)

With thanks to Jonathan Swinton for his suggestions.