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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index T > Alan M. Turing Quotes

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Alan M. Turing
(23 Jun 1912 - 7 Jun 1954)

English mathematician and logician.


Science Quotes by Alan M. Turing (6 quotes)

I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?’
— Alan M. Turing
In 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence', Mind (1950), 59, 433.
Science quotes on:  |  Considering (6)  |  Machine (133)  |  Propose (11)  |  Question (315)  |  Thinking (222)

In other words then, if a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent.
— Alan M. Turing
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 124.
Science quotes on:  |  Expectation (46)  |  Infallible (4)  |  Intelligence (138)  |  Machine (133)

It has been said that computing machines can only carry out the processes that they are instructed to do. This is certainly true in the sense that if they do something other than what they were instructed then they have just made some mistake. It is also true that the intention in constructing these machines in the first instance is to treat them as slaves, giving them only jobs which have been thought out in detail, jobs such that the user of the machine fully understands what in principle is going on all the time. Up till the present machines have only been used in this way. But is it necessary that they should always be used in such a manner? Let us suppose we have set up a machine with certain initial instruction tables, so constructed that these tables might on occasion, if good reason arose, modify those tables. One can imagine that after the machine had been operating for some time, the instructions would have altered out of all recognition, but nevertheless still be such that one would have to admit that the machine was still doing very worthwhile calculations. Possibly it might still be getting results of the type desired when the machine was first set up, but in a much more efficient manner. In such a case one would have to admit that the progress of the machine had not been foreseen when its original instructions were put in. It would be like a pupil who had learnt much from his master, but had added much more by his own work. When this happens I feel that one is obliged to regard the machine as showing intelligence.
— Alan M. Turing
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 122-3.
Science quotes on:  |  Calculation (67)  |  Computer (84)  |  Efficiency (25)  |  Instruction (51)  |  Intelligence (138)  |  Machine (133)  |  Mistake (107)  |  Slave (21)  |  Table (25)  |  Thought (374)

Science is a Differential Equation. Religion is a Boundary Condition.
— Alan M. Turing
Comment made on a postcard sent to Robin O. Gandy. Reproduced in Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983), 513.
Science quotes on:  |  Boundary (27)  |  Condition (119)  |  Differential Equation (9)  |  Science And Religion (267)

The automatic computing engine now being designed at N. P. L. [National Physics Laboratory] is atypical large scale electronic digital computing machine. In a single lecture it will not be possible to give much technical detail of this machine, and most of what I shall say will apply equally to any other machine of this type now being planned. From the point of view of the mathematician the property of being digital should be of greater interest than that of being electronic. That it is electronic is certainly important because these machines owe their high speed to this, and without the speed it is doubtful if financial support for their construction would be forthcoming. But this is virtually all that there is to be said on that subject. That the machine is digital however has more subtle significance. It means firstly that numbers are represented by sequences of digits which can be as long as one wishes. One can therefore work to any desired degree of accuracy. This accuracy is not obtained by more careful machining of parts, control of temperature variations, and such means, but by a slight increase in the amount of equipment in the machine.
— Alan M. Turing
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 106.
Science quotes on:  |  Accuracy (52)  |  Atypical (2)  |  Automatic (13)  |  Computer (84)  |  Control (93)  |  Designed (3)  |  Desired (5)  |  Detail (65)  |  Digital (4)  |  Electronic (10)  |  Engineering (115)  |  Machine (133)  |  Mathematician (177)  |  Physics (301)  |  Speed (27)  |  Technology (199)  |  Temperature (42)

The automatic computing engine now being designed at N.P.L. [National Physics Laboratory] is atypical large scale electronic digital computing machine. In a single lecture it will not be possible to give much technical detail of this machine, and most of what I shall say will apply equally to any other machine of this type now being planned. From the point of view of the mathematician the property of being digital should be of greater interest than that of being electronic. That it is electronic is certainly important because these machines owe their high speed to this, and without the speed it is doubtful if financial support for their construction would be forthcoming. But this is virtually all that there is to be said on that subject. That the machine is digital however has more subtle significance. It means firstly that numbers are represented by sequences of digits which can be as long as one wishes. One can therefore work to any desired degree of accuracy. This accuracy is not obtained by more careful machining of parts, control of temperature variations, and such means, but by a slight increase in the amount of equipment in the machine.
— Alan M. Turing
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 106.
Science quotes on:  |  Accuracy (52)  |  Atypical (2)  |  Automatic (13)  |  Computer (84)  |  Control (93)  |  Designed (3)  |  Desired (5)  |  Detail (65)  |  Digital (4)  |  Electronic (10)  |  Engineering (115)  |  Machine (133)  |  Mathematician (177)  |  Physics (301)  |  Speed (27)  |  Technology (199)  |  Temperature (42)



Quotes by others about Alan M. Turing (1)

One can argue that mathematics is a human activity deeply rooted in reality, and permanently returning to reality. From counting on one’s fingers to moon-landing to Google, we are doing mathematics in order to understand, create, and handle things, … Mathematicians are thus more or less responsible actors of human history, like Archimedes helping to defend Syracuse (and to save a local tyrant), Alan Turing cryptanalyzing Marshal Rommel’s intercepted military dispatches to Berlin, or John von Neumann suggesting high altitude detonation as an efficient tactic of bombing.
In 'Mathematical Knowledge: Internal, Social and Cultural Aspects', Mathematics As Metaphor: Selected Essays (2007), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (97)  |  Altitude (2)  |  Archimedes (22)  |  Berlin (7)  |  Bomb (17)  |  Counting (5)  |  Create (98)  |  Defend (20)  |  Detonation (2)  |  Efficient (20)  |  Finger (38)  |  Google (2)  |  History (302)  |  Human (445)  |  Intercept (2)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Military (24)  |  Moon Landing (3)  |  John Neumann (2)  |  Order (167)  |  Reality (140)  |  Tactic (6)  |  Tyrant (8)  |  Understand (189)


See also:
  • 23 Jun - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Turing's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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