Let’s say that you could carry around a perfect copy of a three-dimensional realization of a Caravaggio painting (or if your tastes are more modern make it a Picasso). You would carry a small box in your pocket, and whenever you wanted, you could press a button and the box would open up into life-sized glory and show you the picture. You would bring it to all the parties you attended. The peak of the culture of the seventeenth century (or say the 1920s if you prefer Picasso) would be at your disposal. Alternatively, let’s say you could carry around in your pocket an iPhone. That gives you thousands of songs, a cell phone, access to personal photographs, YouTube, email, and web access, among many other services, not to mention all the applications that have not yet been written. You will have a strong connection to the contemporary culture of small bits.
There has been an enduring misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up. Turing’s core message was never “If a machine can imitate a man, the machine must be intelligent.” Rather, it was “Inability to imitate does not rule out intelligence.” In his classic essay on the Turing test, Turing encouraged his readers to take a broader perspective on intelligence and conceive of it more universally and indeed more ethically. He was concerned with the possibility of unusual forms of intelligence, our inability to recognize those intelligences, and the limitations of the concept of indistinguishability as a standard for defining what is intelligence and what is not. In section two of the paper, Turing asks directly whether imitation should be the standard of intelligence. He considers whether a man can imitate a machine rather than vice versa. Of course the answer is no, especially in matters of arithmetic, yet obviously a man thinks and can think computationally (in terms of chess problems, for example). We are warned that imitation cannot be the fundamental standard or marker of intelligence. Reflecting on Turing’s life can change one’s perspective on what the Turing test really means. Turing was gay. He was persecuted for this difference in a manner that included chemical castration and led to his suicide. In the mainstream British society of that time, he proved unable to consistently “pass” for straight. Interestingly, the second paragraph of Turing’s famous paper starts with the question of whether a male or female can pass for a member of the other gender in a typed conversation. The notion of “passing” was of direct personal concern to Turing and in more personal settings Turing probably did not view “passing” as synonymous with actually being a particular way.
Markets are not just about the steam engine, iron foundries, or today’s silicon-chip factories. Markets also supported Shakespeare, Haydn, and the modern book superstore. The rise of oil painting, classical music, and print culture were all part of the same broad social and economic developments, namely the rise of capitalism, modern technology, rule of law, and consumer society.