"Can Machines Think?" is the question Turing answers in a unique and modern way in his famous book, which began modern IT. It is comparable to Ray Kurtzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines" in our time.
It reads so quaintly! Here is a man accustomed to enunciating his ideas to uncomprehending people, people convinced of their views, and people impressed by terms like "digital computer".
The book has three portions.
First part suggests that an experiment be created to test if machines can think - the famous Turing Test. I sense that Turing is in no doubt of the practical aspect of his work. He is remarkably free of dogma, metaphysic and cant of any kind - in this man there is only CAN DO, and it is a quality I find very attractive in him.
The Turing Test is simply "I can't believe it's not butter!" applied intelligence. One listens to an Artificial Intelligence and exclaims in camp mock-50s astonishment "I can't believe it's not intelligent!"
The second part is basically a sales pitch for a beastie known as a "Digital Computer". I found it dull.
The third part is objections to Artificial Intelligence. These are variously cute, quaint, funny, and confrontingly practical. And it is the final quality I want to discuss.
How practical this Turing guy was! Basically he was saying that if it sounds intelligent and acts intelligent, then it IS intelligent. In the light of such cold confidence any doubts about the source of subjective awareness of the presence of another person fade away and one is left with a somewhat cold and mechanistic view of the human situation.
My sense is that we will have to wait for our first AI philosophers to ponder these questions with us. David Chamler's work on consciousness studies is also highly relevant now, bridging as none other does the gap between metaphysic and neurological and information theory which underlies the field which Turing began. I will read and review David Chalmer's work sometime soon.