The conditions of the present scenario are as follows: a machine, Siri*, capable of passing the Turing test, is being insulted by a 10 year old boy, whose mother is questioning the appropriateness of punishing him for his behavior. We cannot answer the mother's question without speculating as to what A.M. Turing and John Searle, two 20th century philosophers whose views on artificial intelligence are starkly contrasting, would say about this predicament. Furthermore, we must provide fair and balanced consideration for both theorists’ viewpoints because, ultimately, neither side can be “correct” in this scenario. But before we compare hypothetical opinions, we must establish operant definitions for all parties involved. The characters in this scenario are the mother, referred to as Amy; the 10 year old boy, referred to as the Son; Turing and Searle; and Siri*, a machine that will be referred to as an “it,” to avoid an unintentional bias in favor of or against personhood. Now, to formulate plausible opinions that could emerge from Turing and Searle, we simply need to remember what tenants found their respective schools of thought and apply them logically to the given conditions of this scenario.
Part A: From Turing
It is best to begin with Turing’s hypothetical opinion, considering Searle’s will later require an additional consideration (in response to Part C of this scenario). Based on Turing’s argument for the possibility of artificial intelligence, Siri* would be considered a “thinking, intelligent being” because Turing’s definition of a “thinking, intelligent being” is a being that has the ability to use and understand language. This is measured by a successful passing of the Turing test, also known as the Imitation Game, in which a machine must convince a human interrogator that it is also a real human being (Turing). Many philosophers, including Turing, would then agree that a “thinking, intelligent being” is an accurate, operant definition for being a person—that is, having the equivalence of a human intelligence. According to the scenario, Siri* could pass the Turing test and therefore would be considered a “thinking, intelligent being,” a person. And Amy writes that, “if [her son] ever called an actual person a stupid idiot, he would be in huge trouble.” Therefore, Turing would agree that Amy has justification for punishing her Son for insulting Siri* because Siri* is, by logical conclusion, a person.
Part B: From Searle
In contrast, Searle argues that the ability to pass the Turing Test does not prove sufficient understanding of language, as explained in his Chinese Box experiment. In this thought experiment, he claims that a non-Chinese speaking man—who sits alone in a room, receives questions in Chinese, and manages to correctly respond to said questions in Chinese, simply by following English instructions and matching up Chinese characters—functions as a mere input-output system and never truly understands the language of the...