CSCI 315 paper topic suggestion

Read Alan's Turing classic paper Computing Machinery and Human Intelligence, and watch the recent movie Ex Machina. Here are some questions you might address in your paper:
  1. Is Turing's original description of what we now call the Turing Test the same as how people usually describe it, where the task is for the interrogator to decide who is the computer and who is the machine? Do you see the original version as related in any way to Turing's own tragic personal story (as depicted for example in The Imitation Game)?

  2. Related to the previous question: how does the movie's depiction of the AI Ava more closely match Turing's conception of AI than the usual version of the Turing Test? I can think of two different ways of answering this question.

  3. The film contains one explicit reference to the influential work of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and one very subtle visual reference that you will have to search the web to find (just make sure to cite references). Wittgenstein's first major work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, begins by stating The world is everything that is the case. How does this “world as the set of facts” view agree with the way that Ava the the other AIs at BlueBook (also named after a Wittgenstein work) were programmed? In his later work (notably Philosophical Investigations), Wittgenstein took a much less abstract view of meaning, describing language as helping people accomplish their goals, like constructing a building from concrete slabs. Does this later view accord with what happens later in the movie?

  4. Starting in the early 19th century with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and even before, evil geniuses and mad scientists have been creating human-like creatures that quickly go out of their control. In the early 20th century, Fritz Lang's Metropolis had a similar plotline, with a highly sexualized robot who leads slave workers in a rebellion against their cruel overlords. How does the character of Nathan, the genius scientist in AI, differ in obvious ways from these earlier evil-genius types? Seeing Lang's movie as a comment on a hot-button issue of his time (labor conditions), as well as an obvious influence on Ex Machina, do you likewise see Nathan's character (revealed in his very first appearance in the movie) as a comment on issues of our own time – especially on college campuses like W&L?

  5. What do you make of Ava's brief final scene in the last shot of the movie? (open-ended question)