In this lecture it is argued that this—largely neglected—difference between the conjectured capacity to think and the impossibility of distinguishing between the “intelligent” behaviour of human beings and machine(systems) is to be understood as an “anticartesian experiment” representing the decisive turning point in modern thinking. Since Descartes, modern philosophy has been characterised by methodic scepticism, i.e. by the principle of taking nothing for granted unless it be clearly and distinguishably perceived (“clare et distincte percipitur”). The strongest test of this is the “Deus malignus” test of systematic deception.
In contrast, the Turing test and thus all digital machinery consists in systematically demonstrating indistinguishability, thus rehabilitating deception “in an extra-moral sense” (Nietzsche).
Walther Zimmerli is philosopher and honorary Professor “Mind and Technology” at Humboldt-University Berlin. Currently he is a Visiting Fellow at the IWM.
Comments by Christoph Durt (University of Vienna, Department of Philosophy)