For the benefit of those unacquainted with the Turing Test, it is a test proposed by computer scientist and philosopher Alan Turing. The idea was that a person would talk with a computer, unaware of who/what they were talking to. If, at the end of the conversation the person is unable to determine whether they were talking to a human or a robot (i.e. the computer has fooled the questioner into thinking they're a person) then they're said to have passed a key measure of sentience.

Now, after a search on Memory Alpha, I've found no references to the Turing test which got me thinking : When was the Turing test passed in Star Trek?

I would expect it to be passed before the time of Lore (e.g. 2330s) considering he would pass the test. I want to know if there was any reference in Star Trek materials (i.e. TV episodes, movies, comics, books) to the Turing Test and, if so what this reference involved.


Within the Trek universe, machine intelligence is a regular feature. That said, there doesn't seem to be a specific instance when the "Turing threshold" was reached, nor is it generally used as a measure (as evidenced by the complete lack of a mention in any of the Trek TV episodes).

In the books it's mentioned on several occasions;

In Typhon Pact, Riker points out that Starfleet is now trivially capable of creating holograms that can pass it;

“Really?” Riker said. “Copies of Starfleet’s early-model Emergency Medical Holograms are routinely passing the Turing Test. Some of them are even demanding full civil rights under the guarantees of the Federation Constitution. There’s nothing ‘mere’ about that.”

In "The Joy Machine", Kirk is clueless about it (despite being a computer genius);

“The Turing test,” Linda said.

“What’s that?” [Said Kirk]

“If it responds in ways indistinguishable from those provided by a sentient being, it must be sentient,” Linda said. “But it isn’t the same thing. Sentient beings can’t be reprogrammed.”

In Valhalla, Mile O'Brien is scornful of it;

O'Brien looked pained. "Lieutenant Dax, the last I heard, those experts of yours were still trying variants on the Turing test, which is centuries old and couldn't even prove that people are self-aware. And if you'd ever dealt with androids, as I have..."

As far as further references are concerned, the Trek Book "Brave New World" has extensive mentions of the new android home-world, originally the centre of the Iconian Empire but now renamed "Turing" in honour of the real-world scientist.

  • 2
    Excellent use of links and quotes: a very well researched and comprehensive answer, as always ;) May 3 '14 at 8:37
  • +1 for quoting The Joy Machine. One of, if not the, best Trek novels. May 3 '14 at 9:20

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