Minds and Machines

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 143–188 | Cite as

On the Claim that a Table-Lookup Program Could Pass the Turing Test

  • Drew McDermott


The claim has often been made that passing the Turing Test would not be sufficient to prove that a computer program was intelligent because a trivial program could do it, namely, the “Humongous-Table (HT) Program”, which simply looks up in a table what to say next. This claim is examined in detail. Three ground rules are argued for: (1) That the HT program must be exhaustive, and not be based on some vaguely imagined set of tricks. (2) That the HT program must not be created by some set of sentient beings enacting responses to all possible inputs. (3) That in the current state of cognitive science it must be an open possibility that a computational model of the human mind will be developed that accounts for at least its nonphenomenological properties. Given ground rule 3, the HT program could simply be an “optimized” version of some computational model of a mind, created via the automatic application of program-transformation rules [thus satisfying ground rule 2]. Therefore, whatever mental states one would be willing to impute to an ordinary computational model of the human psyche one should be willing to grant to the optimized version as well. Hence no one could dismiss out of hand the possibility that the HT program was intelligent. This conclusion is important because the Humongous-Table Program Argument is the only argument ever marshalled against the sufficiency of the Turing Test, if we exclude arguments that cognitive science is simply not possible.


Artificial intelligence Turing test Cognitive science 



Thanks to Dana Angluin, Ned Block, Matt Ginsberg and especially the anonymous referees for useful suggestions. I take responsibility for the flaws that remain.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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