
1950: The Turing Test 

Alan Turing, an English mathematician and logician, advocated the theory that eventually computers could be created that would be capable of human thought. To cut through the long philosophical debate about exactly how to define thinking he proposed the "imitation game" (1950), now known as Turing test. His test consisted of a person asking questions via keyboard to both a person and an intelligent machine within a fixed time frame. After a series of tests the computers success at "thinking" could be measured by its probability of being misidentified as the human subject. Still today Turing's papers on the subject are widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence.




Alan Turing
b. June 23, 1912, London, England d. June 7, 1954, Wilmslow, Cheshire
English mathematician and logician who pioneered in the field of computer theory and who contributed important logical analyses of computer processes. Many mathematicians in the first decades of the 20th century had attempted to eliminate all possible error from mathematics by establishing a formal, or purely algorithmic, procedure for establishing truth. The mathematician Kurt Gödel threw up an obstacle to this effort with his incompleteness theorem. Turing was motivated by Gödel's work to seek an algorithmic method of determining whether any given propositions were undecidable, with the ultimate goal of eliminating them from mathematics. Instead, he proved in his seminal paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem [Decision Problem]" (1936) that there cannot exist any such universal method of determination and, hence, that mathematics will always contain undecidable propositions. During World War II he served with the Government Code and Cypher School, at Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, where he played a significant role in breaking the codes of the German "Enigma Machine". He also championed the theory that computers eventually could be constructed that would be capable of human thought, and he proposed the Turing test, to assess this capability. Turing's papers on the subject are widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence. In 1952 Alan M. Turing committed suicide, probably because of the depressing medical treatment that he had been forced to undergo (in lieu of prison) to "cure" him of homosexuality.


