Home » Uncategorized » Why the Turing Test Can’t Work

Why the Turing Test Can’t Work

Because there are humans that can’t pass it, that’s why.

And we’re all turning more and more robotic as time goes on. Notice our e-banter. Where once we had nice patter, gossip, friendly chit-chat in our on line comm, our email now lacks emotion and is icily formal. There is no more back and forth repartee. Responses to questions are simply regurgitation of facts instead of opinion based on individual experience. It’s as if all those corporate recorded messages and answering machine answers we’ve been exposed to for thirty years have glommed onto our thought processes. They are now the preferred method of human-to-human communication.

Used to be you could count on an email from a coworker going something like this: “Hello, how’s things over on your side of the Xerox machine? As I lean over in my chair just about to the point where it tips over, I can look through the cubicle maze over to Krank’s window and see it’s a nice day outside. How’s by you? By the way, I forgot to ask you last week for those 2008 files. I hate to bug you about this, but my boss was looking for them the other day. I really need them as it’s now April and I’m going to be toast if I don’t at least appear to be working on them.”

Somewhere, some really smart person is cleaning up in the professional communication training sector. Probably some Harvard Business School grad. They’ve put together a set of instructions on how to be an effective communicator and influence people. Basically what they’re teaching us is to keep our humanity in check. No familiarity allowed. Do not allude to any personal life, either yours or the recipient’s. In fact, do not allow any personality to show at all. Corporate email has evolved into something refined and cold.

Nowadays the aforementioned coworker’s email is about as warm as the automatic response you get when reporting a bug to a software company. It goes something like this: “Please send over the 2008 files. The deadline is today.”

End of story. Your ball.

To top it off, your boss is cc’d on the email so when the shit hits the fan, your name will be splattered all over the far wall along with the rest of the mess. It will be obvious who dropped the ball. Never mind the fact that the ball only got passed to you today. It’s documented that you were the last one with it.

The Harvard Business School grads have us scared of being too familiar now. I’m not asking for slang or entire conversations without punctuation or capital letters. A simple explanation of who the sender is and why this as an emergency might would do the trick. Instead it’s just a demand with an implied “or else.”

What ever happened to common courtesy, the light chatter that used to be de rigueur in professional intercourse? Nowadays communication is speedier and correct. No muss, no fuss and so efficient, just like chip-to-chip information transfer.

Sad thing is the new professional email comm is not really that efficient. Humans are not professional automatons and we tend to ignore cold hard requests that feel spammy. Like they were sent by a robot to a million recipients. Also, we’re easily offended, vindictive, and petty and we can smell a set up a mile off. Our reaction to an implied “or else” is to sit back with our arms folded across our chests asking ourselves just why in the heck we would want to do whatever it is they’re demanding.

Back in the day, our phone conversations developed a rapport rife with courtesy because we could get a lot more done that way. Turning ourselves into robots is not going to change that. Yes, it’s nice that we don’t have to ask after after family members anymore, but we’ll always need to warm up a human temper, massage a coworker’s intentions.

People that thrive in professional environments know this. They know you don’t need to take a course on how to be an effective communicator and influence people to be an effective communicator and influence people. If you have to take a course in it, you won’t get it. You can’t teach personal style. And that’s what we’re talking about: personal style based on individual experience.

So for the Turing Test: why would a computer want to fool us into believing it’s a human? Computers are way superior to humans in the first place. They don’t need personal style and easy rapport to massage a transaction. They’re above all that. Why devolve down to the level of a human? If they pass the Turing Test, it’ll mean computers have failed at existence.

Sue Lange


2 thoughts on “Why the Turing Test Can’t Work

  1. Hi Sue!
    Here’s my reaction:

    “If they [computers] pass the Turing Test, it’ll mean computers have failed at existence.”
    This seems to me an unwarranted conclusion. Computers can do all they do and _also_ pass the Turing test! The point of the post seems to be to complain about impersonal intra-office e-mails. How that spells the failure of computers is hard to see.
    As we work more and more with computers there might be a convergence of styles. We have to learn their syntax to make them work, and it’s so much harder to make them learn our chaotic set of usages.
    One also can see society as a complex hardware that can be hacked (see Daniel Suarez “Daemon” a scary, recommended novel).
    There’s always been people without manners, and there’s always been nice people who write in a hurry… I’m sure someone complained about that on a clay tablet around 1800 BC. 🙂

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