Document Type



Mathematics (Pitzer)

Publication Date



Artificial intelligence, Turing test, Controversy


The purpose of the present paper is to provide a historical perspective on recent controversies, from Turing's time on, about artificial intelligence, and to make clear that these are in fact controversies about the nature of man. First, I shall briefly review three recent controversies about artificial intelligence, controversies over whether computers can think and over whether people are no more than information-processing machines. These three controversies were each initiated by philosophers who, irrespective of what the programs of their time actually did, viewed with alarm the argument that if a machine can think, a thinking being is just a machine. I will then turn to the major business of this paper: to contrast two developments from within the field of AI which have been interpreted by some as successful steps toward simulating human thought, and also to contrast some reactions to that claimed success. Finally, we will look at some recent developments in the field of AI that suggest that the whole discussion about machine intelligence is at best premature and at worst irrelevant.

Rights Information

© 1986 American Mathematical Society