Turing Paper Reading Guide
Alan Turing's original paper on machines and intelligrence
was written in 1950. This paper is 22 pages long. Some of it
is hard to read. To help you understand the paper,
and to enable to discuss the paper in class on Monday, I have prepared
the following reading guide.
I expect it might take 2 or more hours to read and fill in
the reading guide.
Print out this guide and fill in the blanks. Bring both your
marked up paper, and your filled in guide to class.
- Print out a copy of the paper. Mark up the paper as you read.
Bring the marked up version of the paper to class. I will
inspect your copy of the paper to see that you have done this.
- Circle things you don't understand. Write down questions, such that
if you had the answers to these question, they might help you understand the circled parts.
- If you read something you feel is important, underline or
highlight it. Keep in mind, too much highlighting is way worse than
- If you realize that there is an idea in the paper, that reminds
you of something else. Make a note in the margin about what it
reminded you of.
- After you read be sure you know the meaning of the following
terms. Write a sentence or two to describe each on of the following.
- What does Turing mean when he says "A Human Computer"
- What is a universal Machine?
- Paraphrase Turings "Theological Objection".
- What is a Solipsist view? You might need to use a dictionary
or other reference guide.
- It is important to have an historical perspective on some things.
See if you can find answers to the following questions.
- What did Charles Babbage propose?
- Use the Internet or library. Other than Babbage, who else has held
the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cabridge University? List
1 or 2 who you have heard of before.
- Turing states:
"Until fairly recently a storage capacity of even a thousand digits
was very rare." Is this a lot?
How many digits of storage capacity are available on your laptop?
Assume 1 byte = 1 digit.
- I have printed 3 quotes from the paper below. Try and
explain what point Turing was trying to make when he
- It may be used to help in making up its own programmes, or to
predict the effect of alterations in its own structure. By
observing the results of its own behaviour it can modify its own
programmes so as to achieve some purpose more effectively.
- What does Turing mean when he says, "There does seem to be one for
the human mind. The majority of them seem to be "subcritical,"
i.e., to correspond in this analogy to piles of subcritical size."
- At my present rate of working I produce about a thousand digits of
programs a day, so that about sixty workers, working steadily
through the fifty years might accomplish the job, if nothing went
into the wastepaper basket. Some more expeditious method seems
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Back to the class web-page.