Thanks, everyone, for the Turing-related ideas and links. Here are a few 

to Zach’s question: “in your article you attempt to work through how Turing’s 
scientific and computational research could be infused with his erotic desires. 
Could you say more about this? and maybe how turing helps you investigate how 
queer desire can shape or affect computation?”

I’d be happy to. My take on Turing draws on Jean Laplanche’s theory of the 
enigmatic sigifier to think about Turing’s queer relationship to enigmas, 
which, in the early phases of his career, in the work on the 
Entsheidungsproblem and cryptoanalaysis, takes the form of a quest for a 
transparent form of communication. At this stage of this thinking (which Rob 
rightly calls philosophical), it’s as if he’s searching for a a way to 
eliminate ambiguity and misunderstanding from interactions, be they oral, 
epistolary, pictural, or algorithmic; human to human, human to machine, 
unsuspecting German to covert British, etc. Initially he searches for this 
clarity in the language of mathematics, logic, and computing. Later, though, he 
makes an about-face, no longer yearning for a machine-like clarity in human 
communications, but instead wondering whether a machine could ever communicate 
as sloppily as a human. His operating definition of machine intelligence has 
less to do with logical processes than with what, in my reading, I call 
“sociability” (in the sense offered by Georg Simmel). The Turing test is really 
a sociability test: can the machine jest, flirt, be vague, show curiosity? This 
is what it means to pass as human, astonishing for a thinker who devoted his 
life to the study math and science rather than, say, Victorian literature.

How is all of this queer? The fact that the Turing test is inspired by a gender 
guessing game is relevant, but there's more to it than that. As Hodges’ 
meticulous biography makes clear, Turing was frank to a fault at times about 
his sexuality; he propositioned colleagues, and, horrifyingly, outed himself to 
the police during the investigation that resulted in his arrest for gross 
indecency. He had a fraught and fascinating relationship to the demand to keep 
his sexuality a secret, pressed on him by the restrictions of his era, place, 
and class, and likewise the necessity to pursue romantic and erotic relations 
through direct yet highly codified exchanges. 

I've struggled with this project because in some ways it relies on strategies 
of psychobiography that I find problematic and limiting. My solution has been 
to focus on how Turing approaches the intersubjective (the exchange of 
messages, protocols for communication, and so on), rather than to select a 
biographical event or feature of identity and attempt to link it directly to an 
element of Turing’s thought in a one-to-one correspondence. The key to Turing 
isn't his sexuality as such, his "gayness"; rather, it's the way he handled, 
processed, and sublimated all the strange conditions and restrictions on his 
erotic life and ways of communicating about it.

to Rob on Turing: “A lot of popular literature (Martin Davis for instance) 
likes to separate the decision problem from Turing's later work on machinic 
intelligence (the Turing test is about the interrogator failing to decide on an 
input query!) and his forays into morphogenesis - but I don't think this can be 

Yes! This is related to what I’m trying to get at above, and well put.

to Jacob on Turing and Wittgenstein: “I would argue that they are in fact both 
describing the same thing, and both examining that which lies beyond the limits 
of procedural knowledge, something that I think can be usefully figured as a 
queer gesture given the subsequent development of computing technology.”

Yes – I agree that the Turing vs. Wittengenstein debate is in some ways a 
canard, and would say that Turing’s later work, the work in AI, is focused on 
this question of the limits of procedural knowledge (how do you create a 
procedure for flirtation or curiosity? It’s probably not impossible, but 
certainly more difficult than creating a procedure for, say, playing chess).

to Rob on computer weirdness: “It seems to me that human rationality is usually 
pitted in contrast with machines which are viewed either as; dumb surface tools 
reduced to the depths of human communication - or -  artificial systems which 
(may) have the capacity for sentience - or - material based historical notation 
devices. Why aren't they just looked as what they are and all the weirdness 
they contain?

Computers are weird, endearing, at times even psychotic: they have a hard time 
with ambiguity and ambivalence, which is understandable. Queer relationships 
have historically had to withstand a greater amount of both these things; queer 
subjects accordingly have perhaps been compelled to develop a greater capacity 
for (or resistance to) them.

All best and thanks again,
empyre forum

Reply via email to