MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: How well would educated primates do on a Turing style test?

Date: Mon May 21 09:54:26 2001
Posted By: Thomas M. Greiner, Assistant Professor of Anatomy / Physical Anthropology
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 983498391.Zo

How well would an educated primate do on a Turing style test?

Speaking for educated primates everywhere, I think that I would do quite 
well on such a test.

Rather than “educated” you are asking about those non-human primates, apes 
mostly, that have been taught some type of human communication skill, such 
as American Sign Language. How would they perform against Turing’s test.

First, let’s look at Turing’s test. I’m not an expert in evaluations of 
intelligence, or computer artificial intelligence, and I would ask you to 
direct a question to those Mad Scientists for more detailed information. 
But, what Turing proposed was more of a standard then a test. Simply 
stated, artificial intelligence in a computer would be judged successful 
if the computer could engage in a conversation, via teletype or some other 
instrument, with a human who would be unable to discern that they were not 
conversing with another human. Note, that this is not a test 
of “intelligence” per se, and that it is specifically geared to evaluating 
human-computer interaction. It would have many limitations if it were 
brought outside the realm of computer science. For example, how well would 
a three year old child perform on this type of test?

I brought up the example of a child for a specific reason. Apes that have 
been taught human communication are often compared to a child when 
evaluating their communication skills. I am aware of no experiment that 
tried to evaluate ape skill using a Turing type of test. I suspect that 
this is because a human interpreter would always be necessary when sign 
language is involved – either the human is communicating directly with the 
ape (and therefore knows that it is an ape) or another human is acting as 
an interpreter between the ape and human. When you have a human 
intermediary, you may be evaluating their interpretive skills more than 
you are evaluating the intelligence of the participants. Some apes have 
been taught a symbolic keyboard language, so that they communicate only by 
pressing symbols on a keyboard. For the most part, these experiments were 
constructed to evaluate the ape’s ability to learn grammar (nuances of 
meaning based upon the sequence of symbols) without the need of a human 
interface. In most cases, the apes in these experiments are communicating 
primarily with a computer (I wonder if they can tell the difference?).

More valuable tests of non-human intelligence are those that do not rely 
on, or make use of, human language skills. Non-humans have been given 
intelligence tests from the very beginning of intelligence testing, with 
varying degrees of success. Who is smarter, the dog that learns to sit-up 
and beg for a treat, or the cat that will ignore you until you provide the 
treat anyway? These tests are constantly confronted with the problems 
of “What is intelligence?” and “How can we evaluate intelligence in a way 
that is independent of species/cultural perspectives?” These are deep and 
difficult questions, and I leave it to the experts in this area to explore 
their ramifications.

Current Queue | Current Queue for Zoology | Zoology archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Zoology.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2001. All rights reserved.