What Happens When We Turn the World’s Most Famous Robot Test on Ourselves? The Atlantic:
In a 1950 paper that outlined what has come to be known as the Turing Test he offered a way out of endless philosophical speculation about whether computers could ever be classed as ‘intelligent.’ He said that if human judges ask interview questions of a hidden computer and a hidden person and cannot tell the difference after five minutes, the computer should be considered intelligent.
Turing based his test on the Imitation Game, a parlor game in which men pretended to be women (or women pretended to be men) and the judge had to determine who said what. In the mid-1990’s, sociologist Harry Collins started to use the idea as a research tool. In the very first experiments, Collins hypothesised that female judges would be better at spotting men pretending to be women than men judges. Not recognizing Turing’s inspiration embodied the outdated gender divided society of his time, the experiment failed to reveal any meaningful differences.
That the earliest imitation games compared men and women has greater significance than might be first apparent: Andrew Hodges’ biography suggests that Turing had gender identity on his mind because he was gay. Back then homosexuality was a crime in Britain and, in 1954, at the age of 42, the brilliant Turing was hounded to suicide, eating a cyanide-laced apple.
In Turing’s time, the lack of understanding of homosexuality among the wider population would have enabled few straights to pass as gay in imitation games. Nowadays, however, heterosexual people’s increased knowledge and understanding of homosexual cultures would enable at least a few more of them to succeed. If only we could go back to the 1950s, multiple imitation games could be used to test this idea. We obviously can’t, but something similar in fact is being tried.
Collins and his collaborators are developing a new and much more complex incarnation of the Imitation Game under sponsorship of the European Research Council. They run games on topics like pretending to be gay, pretending to be a Christian, pretending to be a member of an ethnic minority, and so forth, in different regions of Europe. The idea is to find out if the game can be used as a tool for measuring differences in the extent to which these groups are mutually understood in different societies.
At Cardiff University, students found it easier to pretend to be gay than Christian.
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