The Turing test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour. In Turing's original illustrative example, a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The test does not check the ability to give the correct answer, it checks how closely the answer resembles typical human answers. The conversation is limited to a text-only channel such as a computer keyboard and screen so that the result is not dependent on the machine’s ability to render words into audio.
The test was introduced by Alan Turing in his 1950 paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence, which opens with the words: “I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?’” Since “thinking” is difficult to define, Turing chooses to “replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.” Turing’s new question is: “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?” This question, Turing believed, is one that can actually be answered. In the remainder of the paper, he argued against all the major objections to the proposition that “machines can think”.
In the years since 1950, the test has proven to be both highly influential and widely criticized, and it is an essential concept in the philosophy of artificial intelligence.