Tag Archives: Alan Turing

a return to Turing ::..

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i just took a look back at my very first post to this blog, and there are some rather interesting aspects to it that seem to hit right at the core of what i’m most concerned about as a transitional

looks like i wrote it at the very beginning of my graduate research and work through Dynamic Media Institute @ Massachusetts College of Art — it must’ve been one of the first weeks of class and we were looking at The Turing Test as part of our weekly readings and in-class discussions

Wikipedia describes Alan Mathison Turing as:

a British mathematician, logiciancryptanalyst, philosopher, computer scientist, mathematical biologist, and marathon and ultra distance runner

and as one of the founding fathers of computer science he seemed to be a natural-born philosopher, intrigued with not only the vast power and potentials our computing machines would afford to all of humanity, but also, interestingly enough, really beautifully aware of the intrinsic ethical matters embedded directly in the extra-human capabilities of these wonderous new machines

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With his test, Turing asks us:

Can we create a machine with interaction capabilities that would trick us into thinking it is, in fact, human?

And a means to see if it were, in fact, possible to trick us, Alan set up a little trick through simulation — a psychological experiment, if you will, whereby he simulated a conversational machine vis-à-vis a bit of theatric and nearly-prankish Allen Funtery

i’m not going to get into providing a full description of the actual Turing Test here in this blogPost, feel free to read some surface material about the test on Wikipedia — for me, the most important challenge i would like to present is the fundamental modernday irrelevance of The Turing Test

i’ve conducted a LOT of experiments over the years that implemented technology and even, more often than not, simulated technologies that i am simply not expert enough to program at this point in my coding abilities, and i can confidently report that the truth of the matter is that people are rather easy to trick — and they are not at all fascinated by what it might mean to be human anymore, which is a bit unfortunate and disappointing — but, instead, they are fascinated, almost mesmerized, by what we can accomplish with our technologies and they are willing to believe that even the most absurdly superhuman, unprogrammable interactions and intelligences can actually be designed, developed and embedded in the digital-machine experiences we create

now these are very vast and general oversimplified conclusions derived from some rather silly, gallery-based prototypes and experiments i’ve set up over the course of my curatorial career while working through DMI — but i’ve seen the dynamics between some very smart people and some very dumb prototypes and i seemed to always come away surprised, delighted and simultaneously disappointed in how easy it was to simulate and trick a gallerygoing audience into believing what they experienced was actually a computer application built on database, algorithm, interface, interaction, sensors and, ultimately, the magic of human ingenuity through programming

at this point i suggest we take a look at the flip-paradigm of The Turing Test, following the good example presented in this quote from a very famous, if not infamous, psychologist:

“The real problem is not whether machines think
but whether men do.”
B.F. Skinner

Hey, keep your hands off my chicken!

i don’t think we should care about tricking each other so much anymore — like i said, i think that’s rather easy to do most of the time — the biggest, best example of how easy it is to trick and even fully-influence people can be witnessed on a daily basis by simply turning on a television or listening to the radio and then witnessing how much personal opinion is shaped, formed and twisted by these outdated, mass media propaganda machines — even the internet, with all of its freer access to a broader set of information and opinions, tends to still feel a bit of information steering from the topics that come up on the first screen prior to driving the second screen in the modern American living room

i do not think that the original measures for the success of The Turing Trick still apply in this day and age — a recent report from The LA Times claims that a computer program actually did pass The Turing Test:

For the first time, a computer program has officially passed the Turing Test, which measures a machine’s ability to think for itself 

of course, the headline for this article indicates a bit of a trick behind the trick itself, right? the Times article, entitled, ‘Bot passes Turing Test; judges think it’s a 13-year-old boy,’ seems to vastly reduce the age of dialogic return in the simulated conversation to re-contextualize the ‘human’ aspect of the interaction — and so, at least from my perspective, the simulation need not feel as sophisticated and human as we once thought machine intelligence should be — in fact, the human age of the computer-conversant is now a teen that probably misspells words, if even using words in the English language at all, right? LOL … aight, TTYL ;]

but reducing the intelligence of the machine simulation of a human, this modern twist on The Turing Test seems to have increased the key performance indicator measures of success for the test itself

this raises some rather important and interesting questions

first off — what are we actually trying to test here? are we testing people? machines? our ability to program machines? our ability to trick people and their perceptions and beliefs about our intelligent machines?

second off — if we actually achieve the goals of the test — that is, if we can trick a person into thinking an interactive experience with a machine feels human { whatever that is } — what does that actually prove? how does that benefit actual people? or is that simply an implicit goal of computer scientists? to somehow trick people?

third off — isn’t it counterproductive to humanity and to human intelligence to have one of the ongoing side-project goals of computer science be based on a trick? as our machine intelligence supposedly grows, expands and extends on an exponential basis according to Moore’s Law, does it not somehow continue to sabotage and weaken actual, wetware, human intelligence?

 

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