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Alan Turing and psi
#1
Alan Turing, the mid-20th-century logician and pioneer of computing, wrote in 1950, in the course of a discussion about whether machines could think, the following:

I assume that the reader is familiar with the idea of extrasensory perception, and the meaning of the four items of it, viz., telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one's ideas so as to fit these new facts in. Once one has accepted them it does not seem a very big step to believe in ghosts and bogies. The idea that our bodies move simply according to the known laws of physics, together with some others not yet discovered but somewhat similar, would be one of the first to go.

This argument is to my mind quite a strong one. One can say in reply that many scientific theories seem to remain workable in practice, in spite of clashing with ESP; that in fact one can get along very nicely if one forgets about it. This is rather cold comfort, and one fears that thinking is just the kind of phenomenon where ESP may be especially relevant.

A more specific argument based on ESP might run as follows: "Let us play the imitation game, using as witnesses a man who is good as a telepathic receiver, and a digital computer. The interrogator can ask such questions as 'What suit does the card in my right hand belong to?' The man by telepathy or clairvoyance gives the right answer 130 times out of 400 cards. The machine can only guess at random, and perhaps gets 104 right, so the interrogator makes the right identification." There is an interesting possibility which opens here. Suppose the digital computer contains a random number generator. Then it will be natural to use this to decide what answer to give. But then the random number generator will be subject to the psychokinetic powers of the interrogator. Perhaps this psychokinesis might cause the machine to guess right more often than would be expected on a probability calculation, so that the interrogator might still be unable to make the right identification. On the other hand, he might be able to guess right without any questioning, by clairvoyance. With ESP anything may happen.

If telepathy is admitted it will be necessary to tighten our test up. The situation could be regarded as analogous to that which would occur if the interrogator were talking to himself and one of the competitors was listening with his ear to the wall. To put the competitors into a "telepathy-proof room" would satisfy all requirements.

http://www.loebner.net/Prizef/TuringArticle.html

Does anyone have any views about what the statistical evidence for telepathy, which Turing found so overwhelming in 1950, might have been?
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#2
Possibly Rhine's book Extra Sensory Perception After Sixty Years. It was published in 1940 and was well known at the time.
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#3
(10-30-2017, 05:41 AM)ersby Wrote: Possibly Rhine's book Extra Sensory Perception After Sixty Years. It was published in 1940 and was well known at the time.

Thanks. I'd previously assumed Turing's statement was based on Rhine's work, but it occurred to me last night that he might have been referring to S. G. Soal's experiments, which did appear to provide extremely strong statistical evidence. Of course, the significance of that would be that evidence was later found that Soal's results had been faked - so Turing might have revised his opinion if he'd known that.

I should have looked further before posting. Here's an essay by David Leavitt on precisely the question of what Turing was referring to (unfortunately only an incomplete Google preview):
https://books.google.com/books?id=dlwjDg...&lpg=PA347

It concludes that "in all likelihood" it was Soal's work, but I don't see any definite evidence that it was. In fact, I don't understand why Turing would have singled out telepathy if he was referring to Soal's work, because much of it related to guessing the next target rather than the current one - that is, precognition (or possibly clairvoyance) rather than telepathy.
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#4
I thought I was on to something when I found this article saying that Turing had worked at the "National Psychical Laboratory". But sadly it wasn't quite right:
https://www.theatlantic.com/internationa...on/356443/
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#5
(10-30-2017, 08:55 AM)Chris Wrote: I should have looked further before posting. Here's an essay by David Leavitt on precisely the question of what Turing was referring to (unfortunately only an incomplete Google preview):
https://books.google.com/books?id=dlwjDg...&lpg=PA347

Leavitt refers to a short essay entitled "Nature of Spirit", which Turing wrote when he was 19, two years after the death of his friend Christopher Morcom. The young Turing muses on the interaction between the mind and the material world:

"We have a will which is able to determine the action of the atoms probably in a small portion of the brain, or possibly all over it.  The rest of the body acts so as to amplify this.  There is now the question which must be answered as to how the action of the other atoms of the universe are regulated.  Probably by the same law and simply by the remote effects of spirit but since they have no amplifying apparatus they seem to be regulated by pure chance."

and also on the connection between the spirit and the body:

"Then as regards the actual connection between spirit & body I consider that the body by reason of being a living body can “attract” & hold on to a “spirit” whilst the body is alive & awake the two are firmly connected & when the body is asleep I cannot guess what happens but when the body dies the “mechanism” of the body, holding the spirit is gone & the spirit finds a new body sooner or later perhaps immediately."

The text is available here:
http://oldshirburnian.org.uk/alan-turing...of-spirit/
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#6
I'm on holiday at the moment so can't get to first hand sources just now. I'd forgotten how well known Soal's work was at the time, so that might be more plausible but when I saw Turing reference PK, I thought of Rhine's work with dice. 

Your sources indicate a long lasting interest in psychical research so it's probably a combination of a number of things.

I did a search on Lexscien, which threw up some interesting things, namely that one commentator was extremely angry at Turing's wording whereas to me it looks like a pretty honest portrayal of cognitive dissonance. 

I'll have more to say on this in a few days.
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#7
I always thought it was interesting that Turing didn't even seem to consider the possibility that the computer (or AI as we should call it today) could itself be capable of telepathy. Given the viewpoint of the essay he wrote as a young man, perhaps that's not surprising, and I suppose most people here would agree that it's impossible. But should we close our minds to that possibility?
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#8
(11-01-2017, 02:23 PM)Chris Wrote: I always thought it was interesting that Turing didn't even seem to consider the possibility that the computer (or AI as we should call it today) could itself be capable of telepathy. Given the viewpoint of the essay he wrote as a young man, perhaps that's not surprising, and I suppose most people here would agree that it's impossible. But should we close our minds to that possibility?
I suppose it depends on what is what connotations the word 'computer' has, and what internal image it conjures up. Let's say, which is perhaps likely, that Turing was thinking of a machine powered by gears and cogs, where a paper tape with holes punched in it shuttled back and forth through devices which read the existing holes or punch different ones. All of the complexity is contained in that paper tape, the rest is effectively mere mechanics. Is it plausible that the piece of paper should consequently be capable of telepathy?

I've been watching old episodes of "Lost in Space" where robots in a humanoid form and with lots of lights and so on, illustrate how the very shape and form of the machine affects what capabilities one might imagine it to have, regardless of what it actually has.
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#9
(11-01-2017, 03:07 PM)Typoz Wrote: I suppose it depends on what is what connotations the word 'computer' has, and what internal image it conjures up. Let's say, which is perhaps likely, that Turing was thinking of a machine powered by gears and cogs, where a paper tape with holes punched in it shuttled back and forth through devices which read the existing holes or punch different ones. All of the complexity is contained in that paper tape, the rest is effectively mere mechanics. Is it plausible that the piece of paper should consequently be capable of telepathy?

Turing did go into quite a bit of detail about what kind of machines he was thinking of. Initially he suggested a very broad definition:
"It is natural that we should wish to permit every kind of engineering technique to be used in our machines. We also wish to allow the possibility than an engineer or team of engineers may construct a machine which works, but whose manner of operation cannot be satisfactorily described by its constructors because they have applied a method which is largely experimental. Finally, we wish to exclude from the machines men born in the usual manner."

But the final condition caused him difficulties, as it would be difficult to prevent the engineers producing a human being. Even if it was stipulated that they should all be of the same sex, they might still clone a human being. So Turing restricted things to digital computers, but he argued that that wasn't too much of a restriction, because digital computers were universal, in the sense that in theory they could mimic any "discrete-state machine", no matter how complicated.
http://www.loebner.net/Prizef/TuringArticle.html

So I don't think Turing's thinking was limited by the rather primitive computing hardware that was available in 1950. He realised that in principle computers could be very powerful indeed. The imagery of gears and cogs wouldn't really be relevant to his conception of a thinking machine.
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#10
(10-30-2017, 01:22 AM)Chris Wrote: Alan Turing, the mid-20th-century logician and pioneer of computing, wrote in 1950, in the course of a discussion about whether machines could think, the following:

...Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. ...A more specific argument based on ESP might run as follows: "Let us play the imitation game, using as witnesses a man who is good as a telepathic receiver, and a digital computer. The interrogator can ask such questions as 'What suit does the card in my right hand belong to?' The man by telepathy or clairvoyance gives the right answer 130 times out of 400 cards. The machine can only guess at random, and perhaps gets 104 right, so the interrogator makes the right identification." There is an interesting possibility which opens here. Suppose the digital computer contains a random number generator. Then it will be natural to use this to decide what answer to give. But then the random number generator will be subject to the psychokinetic powers of the interrogator. Perhaps this psychokinesis might cause the machine to guess right more often than would be expected on a probability calculation, so that the interrogator might still be unable to make the right identification. On the other hand, he might be able to guess right without any questioning, by clairvoyance. With ESP anything may happen.

If telepathy is admitted it will be necessary to tighten our test up. The situation could be regarded as analogous to that which would occur if the interrogator were talking to himself and one of the competitors was listening with his ear to the wall. To put the competitors into a "telepathy-proof room" would satisfy all requirements.

A few definitions issues.

There is no "mind reading" as telepathy is too often considered. The ability to tune into the vibration of the person or entity, to resonate with them, is an empathetic relationship. TeleMpathy. Thoughts in resonance...like lovers who finish each other sentences.

Can you be in a teleMpathic relationship with a computer. Certainly. Can a computer be sentient? Absolutely. Can an interrogator psychokinetically affect a sentient being. Of course as long as we understand that psychokinesis is energy management, consciously or not.

There is no such thing as a 'telepathically' proofed enclosure. Neither time, distance or structure can interfere with resonancy. How distant is our Higher Mind?

Clairvoyance, clairsentience, clairempathy, all the clairs...different forms of energy management, data processing via vibratory channeling.
Existence is not subject to time; time is subject to Existence.
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