Brief look at the philosophical workings of Alan Turing, famous for the Turing test, Enigma code-breaker and founder of computer science.
Famous for the Turing test, English scientific wizard and mathematician Alan Turing is regarded as the founder of computer science. He was a brilliant cryptographer who broke the Enigma code used by the Germans during World War II that enabled the allies to avert catastrophe.
Alan Turing’s Profile in a Nutshell
Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954) showed early interest in science at a young age. While at King’s College, Cambridge University, he focused on mathematics. He is known for his outstanding work in the development of artificial intelligence to science, and with it, as a criterion for intelligence to the philosophy of mind.
The Turing machine, which defines what to him is a computing device has set generations of scientists to work in developing algorithms that would describe the computational processes of human thought. His “imitation game” called “the Turing test” has taxed philosophers’ understanding of concepts like “intelligence,” “consciousness” and “mind.”
Turing’s Philosophies: The Turing Test and Fibonacci Numbers
Alan Turing worked vigorously to crack the German Enigma code. Also, significant was his belief in the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI), something that has stimulated ongoing philosophical debate about the nature and processes of the human mind. His philosophies are conveyed in his two best known works: Computing Machinery and Intelligence and The Chemical Basis of Phormogenesis.
Computing Machinery and Intelligence and the Turing Test
In his famous Computing Machinery and Intelligence, 1950, Turing posed the question: “Can machines think?” and the answer to such a question depends exactly on what is meant by the terms “machine” and “think.” Instead of directly answering the question, Turing proposed to replace the question with his hypothetical game.
Computing Machinery and Intelligence addresses the possibility of artificial intelligence aside from proposing an experiment – famously known as the Turing test – in his attempt to define a standard for a machine to be considered intelligent.
Along with the Turing test, this work also proposes the theory which states that cognition is a form of computation. The theory is known as computationalism.
The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis and the Fibonacci Numbers
In The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis, 1952, Turing examines Fibonacci phyllotaxis, which is the existence of Fibonacci numbers in plant structures. This work devises a type of mathematical system called reaction-diffusion equations, which are now central to the field of pattern formation, a science that deals with the visible, orderly outcomes of self-organization in nature.
An Insight to Alan Turing and his Philosophies
The Turing test is currently used to determine if a computer can indeed imitate human intelligence. Undoubtedly, his “imitation game” raises a number of issues for philosophers, in particular, if it is true that a machine’s imitation of a human being is enough to satisfy humans that a machine can think. This is a challenge for future scientists to explore.
Considered the founder of computer science and pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), Alan Turing’s Colossus machine that broke the Enigma code is a major landmark in the development of digital computers.
- Farndon, John, etal. The Great Scientists. London: Capella / Arcturus, 2005.
- Stokes, Philip. Philosophy, The Great Thinkers. London: Capella / Arcturus, 2007.