I had read a story / article about artificial intelligence, I think it was last year (2012) but I'm not sure when it was published. It was on an online blog for an institute I believe.

I am telling the story in quotes, just to demarcate where the story begins and ends.

In the story, a scientist is trying to build a perfect AI system which can respond to human interaction perfectly. Apparently the only way this is possible is to make the computer believe that it is human.

He creates what he believes is the solution, and asks a friend to volunteer for a test, and the friend agrees. For the test the friend is supposed to step into a tank full of a liquid. As soon as he enters the tank, he is told, he will lose all his sensations - no vision, no hearing etc. After entering the tank, he talks to the computer and responds, and isn't able to recognise that he is in fact talking to a computer. After some time (days? Don't remember) has passed, he begins to worry - why is he still trapped in the tank?

At this point the scientist tells him that he is in fact the computer he has made, the memory that he has of the human life till the time he enters the tank has been implanted in the machine, so he thinks he is human. He is not in a tank, he is a computer, and that is why he can't see or feel anything. The story ends here.

It is told from the perspective of the computer itself, but since it is an article in a science blog / forum for a technical college, it feels like you're reading an actual experiment when you start reading. It was a rather nice surprise ending to the story in my opinion. I just can not seem to be able to locate the article / story anywhere. Can somebody who might have read this help me? Even just pointing me in the direction of the site it is hosted on would be great.


Whew. This one was bugging me. It's "A Senseless Conversation", by Zach Barnett. It was featured in the May 2012 issue of Hacker Monthly, though I became aware of it from a Metafilter thread that links to another story with a similar theme.

  • Sorry for the extremely late reply, Joe. This is indeed what I was looking for. Thanks a lot! I realise I was wrong about it being published in a college blog. The Metafilter thread has a lot of interesting articles as well. Thanks for the link! EDIT: It was on an institute site. I overlooked the header on the Google sites page - "The following dialogue was published by Cambridge University Press: THINK 29, Vol. 10 (Autumn 2011) © 2011 Royal Institue of Philosophy All Rights Reserved" – Payod Panda Dec 10 '13 at 16:05
  • similar story (for those interested): qntm.org/difference – fjsj Nov 21 '16 at 4:13
  • 1
    @fjsj Thank you, that was a very interesting read. – Payod Panda Jan 11 '17 at 21:42

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