Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Turing Test: a memory of mansplaining

I don't know why I recalled, this morning, an incident from 1983. I had recently been hired as a psychologist in a university counseling center. As new staff on a big campus, I decided to attend one of those well-intentioned social hours and get acquainted with some of the people outside my office. 

One guy approached me and we exchanged the usual identifications--degrees, schools, departments. He was in Computer Sciences. He asked me if I knew what the Turing Test was. Yes, I told him, I did know. He proceeded to explain it to me. Just so you know, the Turing test was proposed by Alan Turing, mathematician and problem-solver extraordinaire. In a 1950 paper entitled "The Imitation Game," Turing suggested that a test for intelligence in a computer would be to require that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both. I cannot remember whether or not I told the mansplainer that he had just flunked the Turing test.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

After the US election: Gore Vidal calls it in 1960

An oddly divided light on our bedroom ceiling

From Gore Vidal's 1960 play, The Best Man. Also a rather good movie after its successful run.

CANTWELL [conscience-less 'populist' candidate]
  I don't understand you.

RUSSELL [flawed but principled candidate]
  I know you don't. Because you have no sense of responsibility toward anybody or anything and that is a tragedy in a man and is a disaster in a President! You said you were religious. Well, I'm not. But I believe profoundly in this life and what we do to one another and how this monstrous "I," the self, must become "we" and draw the line at murder in the games we play with one another, and try to be good even when there is no one to force us to be good.

(CANTWELL rises. He speaks carefully, without rancor)
  You don't understand me. You don't understand politics and the way it is and the way this country is and the way we are. You are a fool.

  We're not the way you think we are. At least not yet.