Computing Machinery and Sexual Difference: The Sexed Presuppositions Underlying the Turing Test

In Jennifer McWeeny & Keya Maitra (eds.), Feminist Philosophy of Mind (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In his 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Alan Turing proposed that we can determine whether a machine thinks by considering whether it can win at a simple imitation game. A neutral questioner communicates with two different systems – one a machine and a human being – without knowing which is which. If after some reasonable amount of time the machine is able to fool the questioner into identifying it as the human, the machine wins the game, and we should conclude that it thinks. This imitation game, now known as the Turing Test, has been much discussed by philosophers of mind, and for more than half a century now there has been considerable debate about whether it is an adequate test for thinking. But what has not been much discussed are the sexed presuppositions underlying the test. Too often forgotten in the philosophical discussion is the fact that Turing’s imitation game is modeled on an imitation game in which a neutral questioner communicates with two different humans – one a man and one a woman – without knowing which is which. In this original imitation game, the man wins the game if he is able to fool the questioner into identifying him as the woman. In this paper, I explore the implications of this set-up. As I argue, the fact that the Turing test was modeled on a man/woman imitation game seems to have led us astray in various ways in our attempt to conduct an effective investigation and assessment of computer intelligence.

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Amy Kind
Claremont McKenna College

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