10 Cunning Questions I Would Ask in a Turing Test

Separating real humans from the fakers

Dale Thomas


Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

Alan Turing, apart from cracking the German ENIGMA code during World War 2, inventing Reaction-Diffusion systems, and being instrumental in the development of computers, was also a pioneer in the emerging field of Artificial Intelligence. In his 1959 paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence he proposed the “Turing Test,” which is a simple and pragmatic approach to the question, “can machines think?”

Alan Turing

He came up with the idea of an “Imitation Game” (yes, that’s the name of the movie about him). In very simple terms, if an interrogator is chatting (through a computer terminal) to an AI that is pretending to be human, and can’t tell if it’s a human or not, then we can say the AI passes the test and is actually ‘thinking’. It’s a version of the duck test, but for intelligence.

While the actual test is a bit more complex and nuanced, the question is, if you were chatting online to someone who could be a human or an advanced AI, what questions would you ask to determine what kind of entity you were talking to? Go on, spend a minute thinking about it how you would approach the problem.

I spent several years in academia as a robotics researcher and I’m well aware that a lot of the cool technological innovations in the field are fragile hacks and bespoke tricks. AI systems are getting better all the time, but at the end of the day, they are still just faking intelligence, and therefore can be fooled with the right questions.

As an aside, I really recommend watching the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Measure of a Man”. It deals with this particular philosophical question, and it’s my favourite episode of a TV show ever. Honestly, check it out, even if you’re not a Star Trek fan.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Here are ten questions I would pose in the test to try to determine if I was talking to a human or a machine:



Dale Thomas

Scifi writer, roboticist, and game developer, 2x Quora Top Writer. I write about writing speculative fiction, computer graphics, AI, evolution, and programming.