Turing and the real girl: Thinking, agency and recognition

Yasemin J. Erden*, Stephen Rainey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In 1950 Alan Turing asked whether machines could think. This question has been vigorously debated since, and its relevance for machine intelligence, or even agency, continues to provoke interdisciplinary debate. In fact, Turing's next step in his paper is to ask a far more nuanced question about imitation, which, we suggest, assumes a number of connections between intelligence, agency and the possibility of imitation. This paper will offer three key arguments against these assumptions, and in so doing make the following claims: (1) that intelligence is not a guarantee of personhood or agency, (2) that Turing's claims for imitation neither resolve the issue of intelligence, nor of agency, and that (3) recognition between agents (or recognition of agency) centres on the interpersonal relationship between agents, which in turn centres on the possibility for communication with a shared language. Our paper does not seek to argue either for or against the possibility of machine thought. Instead we seek to question whether any such processing would be recognized (by other agents) as thought or agency, and what this recognition might involve.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-144
Number of pages12
JournalNew Bioethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Machine thought
  • Recognition
  • Transhumanism
  • Turing


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