Keith Gunderson, 1964.
If a vacuum cleaner salesman demonstrated an 'all-purpose Swish 600' by sucking up dust from a carpet, the customer would be unsatisfied. He or she would want to see it suck up mud, straw, paper, and cat hairs from couches, tight corners, an so forth. One example is not enough to demonstrate the all-purpose Swish 600, just as one example is not enough to demonstrate thinking.
The Gunderson Argument
"The following might help to clarify the above. Imagine the dialogue below:
Vacuum Cleaner Salesman: Now here's an example of what the all-purpose Swish 600 can do.
(He then applies the nozzle to the carpet and it sucks
up a bit of dust.)
Housewife: What else can it do?
Vacuum Cleaner Saleman:What do you mean "What else can it do?" It just sucked up a bit of dust, didn't you see?
Housewife:Yes, I saw it suck up a bit of dust, but I thought it was
all-purpose. Doesn't is suck up larger and heavier bits of straw or paper or mud? And can't it get in the tight corners? Doesn't it have other nozzles? What about the cat hair on the couch?
Vacuum Cleaner Salesman: Its sucks up bits of dust. That's what vacuum cleaners are for.
Housewife: Oh, that's what it does. I thought it was simply an example of what it does.
Vacuum Cleaner Salesman: It is an example of what it does. What it does is to suck up bits of dust.
We ask: Who's right about examples? We answer: It's not perfectly clear that anyone is lying or unjustifiably using the word "example." And there's no obvious linguistic rule or regularity to point to which tells us that if S can only do x, then S's doing x cannot be an example of what S can do since being an example presupposes or entails or what-not that other kinds of examples are forthcoming (sucking up mud, cat hair, etc.). Yet, in spite of this, the housewife has a point. One simply has a right to expect more from an all-purpose Swish 600 than what has been demonstrated."
"Turing's approach to the question "can a machine think?" via the imitation game is less than convincing. In effect he provides us below with a dialogue very much like one above:
Turing: You know, machines can think.
Philosopher: Good Heaven! Really? How do you know?
Turing: Well, they can play what's called the imitation game.
(This is followed by a description of same.)
Philosopher: Interesting. "What else can they do?" They must be capable of a great deal if they can really think.
Turing: What do you mean. What else can they do?" They play
the imitation game. That's thinking, isn't it? Etc.
But Turing, like the vacuum cleaner salesman, has trouble making his sale. Nonetheless, I will indicate shortly why certain of our criticisms of his approach might have to be modified."... "The philosophical relevance of all this to our own discussion can be put in the following rather domestic way: "thinking" is a term which shares certain features with "all-purpose" as it occurs in the phrase "all-purpose Swish 600." It is not used to designate or refer to one capability, capacity, disposition, talent, habit, or feature of a given subject any more than "all-purpose" in the above example is used to mark out one particular operation of a vacuum cleaner"
Gunderson, Keith (1964, p. 67-69) "The Imitation Game," in Anderson, A. R. (ed.) Minds and Machines, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prentice Hall.