Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy New Year Twenty-ten - 60th Anniversary of Alan Turing's MIND paper

Image of fireworks around the London Eye, New Year's Eve (from Sky News)

Let's hope the new year, Twenty-ten, brings forth a fresh decade of compassion and opportunity that is far removed from, as described by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the "terrible and gruelling" Noughties.

2010 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Turing's MIND paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence - his Imitation Game, and the question of whether a machine can think remains much 'beloved' for philosophers of mind!

"I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?" This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms "machine" and "think." The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous, If the meaning of the words "machine" and "think" are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question, "Can machines think?" is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll. But this is absurd. Instead of attempting such a definition I shall replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.

The new form of the problem can be described in terms of a game which we call the 'imitation game'."

Read the full paper on Hugh Loebner's Artificial Intelligence Prize site.

2010 is also the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society, world’s oldest science academy of which Alan Turing was a Fellow.

Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton Terrace SW1 (picture: copyright KaihsuTai)

Royal Society's 350th anniversary events will include celebrating "local heroes .. pioneers, mavericks and geniuses, who for centuries have changed the way we live and see the world", and a summer Festival of Science at the Southbank (more information here and here).

Update: 4 January, 2010: BBC Radio 4 In Our Time

In a four-part series which began this morning (repeated tonight at 21.30), Melvyn Bragg introduces the history of the Royal Society, with a visit to Wadham College, Oxford. Listen here (45 mins).

Neal Stephenson's (author of Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon), Baroque Cycle, beginning with Quicksilver is a must read adventure of the period encapsulating the enigmatic and eminent characters in the early days of the Royal Society, including Sir Isaac Newton.

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