Happy Birthday, Alan Turing !

Alan Turing, brilliant mind and tortured soul who altered how we relate to computation and data was born 100 years ago.

We can thank him for the fact that we can read this O.P.

Thanks Alan !!

So tell me more about your mother.

Yeah, I’ve read about his famous shroud.


Ha !!!

You may live.

I ran into a bot that passed the Turing test once, in a very casual sort of sense. It’s actually not that difficult. Some of my classmates and I, on a MUD (it was an educational MUD! long story), spent about a month wondering if there was any way for us to hunt down and gag the guy behind the handle ‘dogcow’, as in the indeterminate spotted animal that used to illustrate the sample pages on the options tab for Mac printer drivers, before we found out it was a bot pretending to be a human pretending to be an idiot.

The sticking point is – and I feel Turing would appreciate this, were he still here to hear me point it out – that nowhere in the original paper does Turing state that the computer has to convince you that it’s a smart, civil, helpful human. You just have to be convinced you’re talking to a person. I don’t know about you, but I’ve met some real flesh-and-blood humans over the years who set that bar pretty low.

(I started giggling the first time I read the Turing test paper. I thought perhaps I had gone mad, because who finds math and philosophy that funny? Then I stumbled across some reminiscences from Turing’s student and close friend Robin Gandy, who mentioned that Turing used to have trouble proofing passages by reading them aloud, because the both of them kept breaking into uncontrollable laughter. The original On Computable Numbers… paper is rather dense and dry, but as the years went on and he became more and more irreplaceable, Turing stopped bothering to edit the sarcasm out of anything he wrote. I find it weirdly charming. :slight_smile: )