The Turing Politician

Lying politician The new movie “The Imitation Game” is about Alan Turing. Among Turing’s many accomplishments was a test for assessing artificial intelligence – quite a feat for a man living at a time when computers were the size of bank vaults and as mentally quick as 1st graders.

Turing’s Test is a deception game. The examiner asks questions of a person and a computer. There are no hard-and-fast rules to the questions, but ultimately the examiner has to decide which is human and which is computer. As soon as a computer can fool us into thinking “it” is a “he”, it has achieved intelligence (and we should stop referring to it as “it”).

Turing Test
Turing Test: 21st Century Edition

I’m a little concerned that the first thing we want a computer with AI to do is deceive us – it sets a very negative tone for the relationship, but I didn’t invent the test.

Many computers have tried and failed Turing’s test. Recently, it was reported that a computer called Eugene had passed the test, but it seems that Eugene, imitating a 13-year-old boy from the Ukraine, hadn’t passed after all (grade inflation gets everywhere these days.)

But all this talk about the Turing Test and artificial intelligence got me wondering if I could use the same approach to choosing a political candidate. I know, I’ve talked about this before, but a Turing Test would tell me if I was voting for a person or a politician. My theory is that I’m usually only given the choice between two politicians – this isn’t quite what Turing had in mind. He didn’t sit an examiner down to chat with two computers and try to decide which was a human.

The most successful questions used in a Turing Test are those that check a computer’s capacity to lie.

Politicians have no problem with the lying thing – a good question might determine if the politician has the human ability of telling the truth. And I don’t mean a Kinsley gaffe, I mean telling the truth on purpose.

I searched Internetland long and hard for an example of political truth-telling (even I, a master cynic, wasn’t expecting it to be this difficult).

I thought I found one when I stumbled across Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) saying in 2003 “I don’t need Bush’s tax cut. I have never worked a fucking day in my life.” – but this statement had to be disqualified because the politician was telling the truth while impaired.

Other truthful statements had to be disqualified because they were either made under duress (i.e., after a lie had been exposed) or truthful statements were illegally obtained.

In my quest to find a truth-telling politician, I did find a hilarious example of a 6th grade lesson plan trying to teach the students why we want our politicians to be honest – as if! “Politicians Always Lie” would be a better lesson. (Note: The politician being studied was Sam Rayburn. Even these teachers had to go back 40 years to find a truthful politician).

lesson plan
6th Grade Lesson Plan: Politicians Always Lie

Finally, I found an example (*Whew*- that was hard work.) Lucy Flores, running for Lt. Governor of Nevada frankly admitted to having an abortion. She didn’t win, of course.

Apparently, there is a Turing Test for politicians. The human ability to tell the truth is currently beyond the ability of even the most advanced politician.

I’m Jae and this message is a complete fabrication.


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