The breadth and depth of Noam Chomsky’s wrongness must be marvelled at. Within and without his professed area of expertise he is so skilled a sponsor of untruth that, in some future world, whole virtual shelves will be devoted to studies of how it happened that so many of his peers were willing to stir clouds of his intellectual poison into so many streams of scholarship.

Today I was reading Computing Reviews in the Campus library and came upon a short piece about a new book from MIT Press containing academic reflections on the Turing Test (TT). Turing had a great mind and used it to assist one of the most noble struggles in history: the fight against Nazism. His eponymous test is (apart from anything else) a piercing thought experiment, so it is unsurprising that in The Turing Test: verbal behaviour as a hallmark of intelligence, the philosopher and fan of thought experiments Daniel Dennett defends the TT against contemporary critics. He argues in his contribution to the book that it “would be hard to find a better intelligence test than the TT”.

That’s true, but that doesn’t mean the test is a good one. I have always had reservations about the TT as a measure of the ability of an artificial being truly to think, but cannot deny its power as a measure of our ability to think about the nature of intelligence. Reading on further, I felt certain that I would have to discard my reservations, however. In the same volume “Chomsky states that passing the TT is irrelevant for the problem of thinking”. Chomsky is as sure a touchstone of opinion for me as the Daily Mail. Perhaps Turing was perfectly correct all along.