The Turing Test and Ada Lovelace, with Walter Isaacson
Biographer Walter Isaacson discusses the contributions of both Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace to modern computer philosophy.
In the biographical film The Imitation Game, which opens in U.S. theatres today, Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the English mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing. You may be familiar with "the Turing Test," which is another name for the film's titular game. The test was developed by Turing to assess the computational power of artificial intelligence. Put simply, to pass the Turing Test a computer would need to imitate human thought and communication well enough that an observer (without aid of actually seeing the computer) wouldn't be able to tell it apart from a human. Scientists and innovators have long sought to produce a computer that could pass this test. The world's still waits patiently.
Biographer Walter Isaacson, who is featured in today's Big Think video interview, views Turing as one of the seminal pioneers of the digital age. It's for this reason that Turing is featured prominently in Isaacson's new book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. In the following clip, Isaacson discusses Turing's influence on modern computer philosophy and why passing the Turing Test may not be such an important goal after all:
As Isaacson notes, Turing was heavily influenced by the remarkable 19th-century mathematician Ada Lovelace. Despite her distance from the digital age, Lovelace is often considered by many to be the world's first computer programmer. Isaacson explains how her computational theory helped set roots for Turing to try and prove the opposite:
"[Turing] starts thinking about the difference between human imagination and machine intelligence. And it goes back to what he calls Lady Lovelace’s objection. It goes back to Ada Lovelace a hundred years earlier who had said machines will be able to do everything except think."
This inspired Turing to develop the imitation game. As no computer has passed the Turing Test thus far, Isaacson points to Lovelace's symbiotic theory of human/machine collaboration. While Turing set standards by which a computer would be able to surpass humans, Lovelace foresaw a future where people and machines make each other better. This is a fundamental difference in the Lovelace approach versus the Touring approach:
"A different way of looking at the way the computer age evolved is sort of Ada Lovelace’s way which is that computers and humans will evolve symbiotically. They’ll be partners. We will get more intimately connected to our machines and the machines will amplify our intelligence and our creativity will amplify what the machines could do. And we don’t need to try to create robots that’ll work without us. It’s kind of cooler to create this partnership of humans and technology or as she put it the humanities and engineering."
Until A.I. is developed that can master the Turing Test (and not just nibble the surface of success), we'll be living much more in a Lovelace world than a Turing world. Yet when the time comes and computers become indistinguishable from humans, Turing's brave new world will become a reality.
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According to TwoFold CEO Alison McMahon, a leader who doesn't care (or can't pretend to care) about his or her employees isn't much of a leader at all.
Why do people quit their jobs? Surely, there are a ton of factors: money, hours, location, lack of interest, etc. For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses.
By and large, she says, people are willing to put up with certain negatives as long as they enjoy who they're working for. When that's just not the case, there's no reason to stick around:
Nine times out of ten, when an employee says they're leaving for more money, it's simply not true. It's just too uncomfortable to tell the truth.
Whether that's true is certainly debatable, though it's not a stretch to say that an inconsiderate and/or incompetent boss isn't much of a leader. If you run an organization or company, your values and actions need to guide and inspire your team. When you fail to do that, you set the table for poor productivity and turnover.
McMahon offers a few suggestions for those who want to hone their leadership abilities, though it seems that these things are more innate qualities than acquired skills. For example, actually caring about your workers or not depending wholly on HR thinking they can do your job for you.
It's the nature of promotions that, inevitably, a good employee without leadership skills will get thrust into a supervisory position. McMahon says this is a chronic problem that many organizations need to avoid, or at least make the time to properly evaluate and assist with the transition.
But since they often don't, they end up with uninspired workers. And uninspired workers who don't have a reason to stay won't stick around for long.
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