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“I’m afraid that the following syllogism may be used by some in the future.

Turing believes machines think
Turing lies with men
Therefore machines do not think

Yours in distress,

I can’t wait for The Imitiation Game, because so, so often Turing’s homosexuality goes unmentioned in stories about his work in artificial intelligence and computing. It’s frustrating, because questions of gender and identification are right at the heart of the Turing Test: the “Imitation Game” is itself a test of the ability to think based on the ability to know gender. In “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (1950), Turing explained the game:

"(It is) played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B), and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a room apart from the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman….It is A’s object in the game to try and cause C to make the wrong identification." (That is, the man must make the judge think that he is a woman.) “‘What will happen when a machine takes the part of A [the man] in this game?’ Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman? These questions replace our original, ‘Can machines think?’"

So the “imitation” in the imitation game, the proof of thought, depends on the simulation, one could say the performance, of heteronormative gender roles.

This is terrifically simplified, but it suggests a tragic implication of Turing’s story: if a machine must be able to identify gender in order to think, then “Turing lies with men, therefore machines do not think” implies that because Turing cannot properly determine gender (that is, who he should be fucking), Turing cannot quite think—is, therefore, not quite fully human.

Excuse me, I’ll be over here crying.


(There’s a good overview of these issues in “The ‘Sinister Fruitiness’ of Machines: Neuromancer, Internet Sexuality and the Turing Test” [x])

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