Can computers satify the definition of a person?!?

Apple's iPhone 4

Could a computer qualify as a person?

This post relates to the question posed by Alan Turing in 1950.  He pondered what questions were necessary to determine if a subject that we cannot see or hear, is actually a person at all?  In other words, was this entire post written by a computer or a person?  What questions would you ask me to ensure I fit the definition of a person?  I’ll be looking forward to your thoughts-

The Turing Test poses an interesting question: are human beings so remarkable?  According to Mosser (2010), the Turing Test was an experiment designed to see if humans could tell whether the subject of a conversation was a computer or a human.  My interest in the experiment, which dates back to 1950, is not that it demonstrates the capability of artificial intelligence, but instead, it demonstrates that humans are possibly not as unique as we think we are.

Regardless of the exact purpose of the purpose of the experiment, I suspect that it would be relatively easy to decide which subject was a human and which was a computer during a conversation test.  Mosser stated that, “…human beings are notoriously bad at telling jokes; but while they may not give a ‘good’ explanation of why something is humorous, their response may sound distinctively human” (2010, p. 251).  I believe this points out a fundamental difference between computers and humans: humans tend to explain things to the best of their ability; computers tend to computer or define things to the best of the presently available information.

What is love?  The human undoubtedly be stumped to define this for a stranger, especially when using the single-sense option available in a chat program.  All of us adults have experienced love, in one form or another.  Many of us have truly been “in love” many times in our lives.  We understand the emotional charge, the exhilaration, and the longing for the other person that this single feeling creates.  But can we define it?  The scholars at Hallmark Corporation have been working on this for some time now, and there still is not a single usable definition.  The not knowing how to answer something is distinctively human.

I asked Google the same question and learned that the computer was able to search out 842,000,000 responses across the Internet in 0.15 seconds.  Impressive, but do any of them answer the question?  Second to that, are any of the responses generated by a computer, or are they all recorded information that was documented by other humans?  Certainly, this is a rudimentary test because Google is not designed to beat the Turing Test and I don’t have the time to research all those responses to my inquiry.  In the end, I believe the answer to my curiosity was answered, though.


-Mark Wyman

November 3, 2011


Mosser, K. (2010). Philosophy: a concise introduction. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.  Accessed through eBooks for iPad.

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