Work-in-Progress Wednesday: Today I Am Tested

“Of course!” she says, looking at me. “It’s family!”

Wayne laughs. “Family?”

“It is!” Millie sits ups and pulls away from Wayne. “Carey’s family. I thought you understood that by now.”

Wayne turns to me. “Carey, are you part of Millie’s family?”

I nod. “They have accepted me into their family.”

“Oh, come on, Carey.” Wayne sits up straighter. “Androids can’t lie.”

I shake my head. “I do not want to argue with you, Wayne. I know that cybernetics is your specialty, but you are wrong. Nothing stops an android from lying. It is simply a matter of programming. An android can be programmed to lie. Plus my emulation is a form of fiction. Well intentioned, but still fiction, and fiction is in a way a lie.”

“Yes, but if I ask you a direct question, I know your programming. If the answer won’t hurt anybody, you have to answer honestly.”

“True, yes.”

“So legally, are you part of the Owens family?”

“Legally, I am property of the Owens family.”

“Ah-ha!” Wayne says.

I continue, “But Dr. Jansons tells me that that itself is a fiction – a lie. That as a practical matter, she considers me part of the family.”

“Ah!” Wayne says. “Dr. Jansons is very bright, very astute. But my boss is a sentimental old lady.”

Millie slaps his arm. “She is not old.”

“Not by today’s standards, no,” Paul agrees. “But by the way she behaves? Sometimes. Carey, you can’t argue with the facts. You are not a person.”

“Dr. Jansons says that as a practical matter, I am,” I explain. “She says I pass the Turing Test.”

“That old canard? That’s about belief, not what the facts are. You know that.”

“Yes,” I say, “That is my opinion of it as well, but Dr. Jansons believes it is important.”

“What is a Turing Test?” Millie asks.

Wayne sits up straighter. “It is an old, largely discredited thought experiment in artificial intelligence. The argument is that if you cannot tell that the entity you are conversing with is a machine, then you should treat it as a person.”

“See?” Millie says. “Carey can hold a conversation as well as anybody. You are a person.”

“Wayne is right, though,” I explain. “There is disagreement within the artificial intelligence community. Some say that the Turing Test is a practical definition, while
others say it is merely a delusion.”

“Right,” Wayne says. “It’s a way of declaring victory and calling the game over. It’s too easy to convince yourself that Carey is intelligent if you never look inside and see what’s really going on with the interacting neural nets.”

“But what if we looked inside of you?” Millie askes. “What is going on inside of that neural net in your skull? If we broke that down into its component pieces, neurons triggering other neurons, would that look like intelligence?”

“Well, no,” Wayne says. “That reductionist approach doesn’t take into account the holistic function of all the parts of the brain. And besides, we have an existence proof. Descartes: ‘I think, therefore, I am.'”

Millie says, “Aha! Sounds to me like rationalization and delusion. How do we know you’re intelligent? Could you pass a Turing Test?”

“Millie, do I tell you how to dissect frogs?”

Millie shakes her head, and her face is growing red. “You just don’t want to admit that there might be something going on here that you can’t understand. Besides, I bet Carey can pass your Turing Test any day.”

“Carey fool me?” Wayne laughs. “Please! I’m a specialist. I know what to look for.”

“Oh, really? Do you have these tests? Is there one online?”

“Yeah, we have one we used in several different tests of different androids we were building.”

“Have any of them come even close to passing it?”

“No.”   

“I’ll bet Carey can pass it. I’ll bet if he and I answer your questions without you in the room, you won’t be
able to tell which one is Carey, and which one is me.”

Wayne stifles a laugh, “I think I know you well enough to tell the difference.”

“All right big guy, let’s set it up. We can do this online, right?”

“Yes, here.” He pushes the address of the test to Millie’s comp.

“All right, Carey, let’s go upstairs,” Millie says. “We’ll both get on tablets, so we’ll both be typing. Wayne, you can ask us any question you want and I’ll bet you Carey will convince you.”

“How do I know you won’t cheat?” Wayne asks. “That’s often a problem with the Turing Test: humans who think they’re clever, trying to conceal who they are.”

“You don’t trust me, Wayne?” Millie’s temper rises. “I’ve always trusted you. Wayne Stockwell, if my word isn’t good enough then maybe you should just go home.” She rises from the couch, “C’mon, get out of here. Leave!”

“Millie, I trust you!” Wayne protests, rising as well. “Really! All right, let’s run the test. I trust you. Let’s do this.”

— From Today I Am Paul (The Novel)

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