#AtoZChallenge: T is for Turing Test



Those who are into computers and their history — or those who have at least watched Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game — would know something about the Turing Test. According to Wikipedia, Alan Turing’s 1950 proposal is not to determine whether a machine can provide the correct answer to a question. Instead, the aim of the test is to see how closely the machine’s answer can resemble that of a human.

I find this fascinating, particularly from a writer’s point of view. Even more intriguing is the requirement that the “natural language conversation” between the machine and its human judge in the Turing Test “is limited to a text-only channel such as a computer keyboard and screen so that the result is not dependent on the machine’s ability to render words into audio”. It is, as you can imagine, exactly like writing and reading.

In yesterday’s blog post (“S is for Science Fiction”) I explored whether writers are able to capture the hearts and souls of their readers purely with their words. (That is, unlike movies and television shows that can easily achieve this goal with the assistance of images and sounds.) Indeed, the act of world-building in the writing process needs to be logical — everything requires a reason and that reason has to derive from reasonable thoughts and emotions. However, I would suggest that it is not so much the details of these worlds need to be ACCURATE, as they have to be CONVINCING to be wholeheartedly embraced by readers.

Examples abound, from dragons and magic in fantasy to ghosts and monsters in horror and then to robots and aliens in science fiction. Even vampires and werewolves in romance. Utopian and post-apocalypse societies in YA books? You bet. Think of how plausible these worlds appear, how realistic the characters are as they struggle to balance between the wandering good and the lurking evil. The line between dreamscape and reality is blurred or completely removed. The stories call for the readers, draw them in, capture them, suspend their disbelief throughout the reading — and even beyond it.

That is the kind of Turing Test all writers need to pass. That is the magic we need to create by doing research and providing sufficient details to back up our stories. Particularly when we take into consideration the fact that the human judge in the Turing Test may or may not know he/she is conversing with a machine, the challenge faced by writers becomes obvious. Precisely because readers know the stories they are reading are made up, our job is done as writers if we can convince them to believe otherwise.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Majanka Verstraete (@iheartreads)
    Apr 24, 2015 @ 01:30:59

    I’ve never heard of the Turing Tet before, but it’s so fascinating. I’ve yet to watch The Imitation Game. I heard it’s great.

    My latest post in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.


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