6.803 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

The Human Intelligence Enterprise

Schedule of Activities

Turing suggests test for success

Rules of Engagement

Note that the Rules of Engagement in 6.803 are the same as those in 6.034: show up, pay attention, leave your laptop shut, and put away your cell phone.


“Computing Machinery and Intelligence” by A. M. Turing

(Note: Turing’s paper was originally published in 1950.)

Estimated reading time: 1.5 hours

Usually, we limit you to one side of one sheet of paper. This time, you get two sides of one sheet of paper.


Part A

Read the Syllabus if you have not already, so you will know as much as possible about what 6.803 will be like. If the syllabus or this assignment give you second thoughts, send me an email immediately so we can give your slot to someone else.

Part B

Read the Style Guide carefully.

Turing, Side 1

[Note: If you discuss the paper or the assignment with another student—which we encourage—indicate whom you have talked with in your submitted composition. Of course your submitted composition must be written entirely by you.]

Part A

You are to complete this part of the assignment on one side of one sheet of paper, using 10 pt type or larger, with reasonable interline spacing and margins.

Note that, for various reasons, we insist on strict adherence to the stipulated page limits.

  • We want you to learn to be concise.
  • We sometimes scan your papers for posterity. Our scanner does not handle staples, nor does it handle two sides.

Part A1—Decoding a Paper

You have a nightmare. You have partied all weekend, 6.803 is to meet in fifteen minutes, you have not read the assigned paper yet. You have lost all your electonic devices, but have a paper copy of the assigned paper. You are afraid Winston will call on you at random to summarize the important ideas. Explain how you would use your fifteen minutes to prepare for that possibility. Do not limit yourself to techniques suggested by the Turing paper.

Part A2—The Turing Paper

Suppose that you are Alan Turing. You have been asked to participate in a panel discussion on the possibility of intelligent computers at a meetng of the Royal Society. You prepare some talking points by completing the following:

  • In retrospect, the most important part of my paper is …, because…
  • I think the strongest of my various arguments is…, because…
  • I think the weakest of my various arguments is…, because…
  • I hope that people pursue research focused on…, because…don’t seem particularly important to me.

Part A3—Go back over your paper

Check your paper carefully for style infringements as defined by the Style Guide, especially quote misuse. Do this as if such an infringement would expose you to public ridicule or an F in the subject.

Part A4—Go back over your paper again

This time make absolutely sure you have not committed the quotation crime identified in the Style Guide.

Part A5—For discussion preparation, not part of written assignment

Be prepared to explain the arguments against the possibility of computer intelligence along with Turing’s response.

Miscellaneous, Side 2

Part A

Read the Style Guide carefully. Then, on the other side of your sheet of paper, criticize the following:

The author believed “Patrick and Karen drank wine and beer in Miami and Montreal. The former was too cool and the latter was too warm. Since the food was good, however, neither wanted to leave.”

We are very picky about the points listed in the Style Guide, so you should review every paper you write to be sure that you have adhered to the commandments. Otherwise, you will drive us crazy with rage and have to resubmit your paper to get a grade.

Part B

Alan Turing has returned to life for the current academic year and has decided he wants to take 6.803 to catch up on what has happened after he died in 1952. He has asked you to draft an entry to the “Why do you want to take 6.803?” question that will make Winston hope he will be a lottery winner. Provide the draft.

Part C

Then, draft an entry to the “Why do you want to take 6.803?” question that will make Winston indifferent about whether he will be a lottery winner.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments