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John Searle and Alan Turing have contrasting views when it comes to the debate on artificial intelligence (AI) and consciousness. Alan Turing is most famous for developing the Turing test, which is used to see if a machine can trick someone that it is indeed a person. John Searle refutes this argument by proposing the idea of the Chinese Room, proving that machines are unable to actually understand information. Both Searle and Turing are at the movies watching Ex Machina debating the status of Ava, artificial intelligence, and consciousness. Each of their views differs though they argue about it intelligently.
An overall theme throughout the movie is that of the Turing Test and whether or not Ava will be able to pass it. So, Alan Turing begins by analyzing whether or not Ava would pass the Turing test. Turing specifically wants to know whether Ava can do the things that persons can do. Initially, Ava would not be able to pass. In session one, Ava is asked about her opinion and she replies that she does not know. Once again in session two, she draws something and is unable to say what it even is. Immediately, this would show that she is merely a machine. Searle would say that this is can go with the Chinese room; a machine is able to process information but they are incapable of understanding. But throughout the movie, she acquires opinions as well as other qualities that could help indicate that she would be able to pass an actual Turing test. For instance, in session five, she displays worry about whether or not Nathan is going to terminate her or not. She does not understand why she needs to be tested to see if she is conscious when no humans need to be tested. At the end of the movie, she seemed to display true artificial intelligence. She listened to Caleb talk about how he was going to help her escape. In fact, she understood what he said and she used his plan to get out. She applied her knowledge and understanding to actually physically respond. Turing would agree that Ava is a machine that has artificial intelligence. Additionally, she shows that she is conscious as well. When Caleb approaches her, she almost seems to feel his presence. She displays intuition when she expresses in session two that Nathan is not Caleb’s friend. She even says in session four that she feels sad. She can tell that Nathan tells lies. She would not be able to know this if she was not conscious or if she was not perceptive in some way. According to Turing, he would say that she is able to pass the Turing test.
Searle would be unwilling to agree with Turing, at least entirely, because he believes that Ava would not be able to ever understand. If she were put in the Chinese room, she would respond just as everyone else, and simply go through the motions of a machine. Just like Google translate, she does not actually understand the translation process, but she is just spewing words. More specifically, Searle would be inclined to agree that she does not understand, especially in the case of when she draws a picture. She could draw a picture of the Swiss Alps but she would not actually understand what it is, unless of course she is programmed prior to knowing this. Again, she does not understand necessarily. The Turing Test is not enough for Ava to prove that she is thinking; it is just proving that she can simulate thoughts. This would prove Searle’s views when it comes to artificial intelligence, as she is showing she cannot really think; it is just generated responses.
Another point Searle would make is that Ava is not conscious. In order to be conscious, you have to be biologically human, according to Searle. This is not the case with Ava as she is merely a machine, made up of knowledge from Blue book and engineered to look like a human despite having mechanical body parts underneath her skin. There was not a time where Ava had to “think” about something when asked a question. She simply answered. Once somebody wakes up in the morning, they feel certain emotions and are having subjective experiences. This does not happen with Ava or else it would be shown through her behavior or through what she says. She is unable to really answer questions subjectively and this is shown by her not being able to express or come up with an opinion. This would prove that she is not thinking.
Now, Turing would challenge Searle by asking how it was possible that she manipulated Caleb into helping her escape if she was not conscious or did not have artificial intelligence. Searle would answer this by stating that she processed Caleb’s information on how to escape and clearly just followed his instructions, almost like she was programmed. Both Turing and Searle have great arguments when it comes to debating the status of Ava, consciousness, and artificial intelligence. Turing is clear on his views and is certain that Ava would be able to pass the Turing test. She exhibits true artificial intelligence and that she may be thinking. On the contrary, Searle would say that though she may be able to pass the Turing test, it does not prove that she is somehow a thinking being, only those biologically engineered can be conscious.
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