At this stage in the book we take a break from looking at Alan Turing himself and the imitation game and consider the wider field of artificial intelligence (AI). Whilst the game itself has proved to be arguably one of the most iconic and controversial aspects of AI, it is useful, we feel, to assess just how the game fits into the field and perhaps to give some sort of understanding as to why it is so important. We also take a look at such things as natural language processing but we avoid heavy mathematics. Anyone who is already well versed in AI may well wish to move straight to Chapter 4.
Alan Turing is frequently referred to as the father of artificial intelligence. He was around at the dawn of the computer age and was himself directly involved in early computer systems such as the Bombe, which he designed, and the Colossus, on which his work was used. The field of AI itself however was, some claim, first so named after Turing's death, around 1956 (Russell and Norvig, 2012) although in general it could be said to have come into existence as the first computers appeared in the 1940s and 1950s.
In AI's formative years attention was focussed mostly on getting computers to do things that, if done by a human, would be regarded as intelligent acts. Essentially it was very human-centered. When Turing proposed his imitation game in 1950, it was perfectly timed to be grabbed hungrily by the young and burgeoning, soon to become, AI community, particularly those interested in the philosophical aspects of the new field. As was shown in the previous chapter even main stream radio broadcasting was not scared to encompass the topic.
The game and AI
Turing wanted to come up with a realisable concept of intelligence in machines. Rather than give a long list of definitions, many of which would be controversial, or to construct a series of mathematical statements, most of which would be impracticable, he put the human at the centre and used a form of science involving actual experimentation to confirm the hypothesis.