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How permeable is the boundary between human and machine? Every year, our devices get a little smarter, a little more responsive, a little more attuned to our needs. Perhaps you use Siri or Alexa; maybe you clean your house with a Roomba or have read about medical robots being used in hospitals. What happens when, thanks to technological advances, our computers acquire intelligence to rival our own? And how will we know?

These questions were anticipated nearly 70 years ago by the computer scientist, mathematician, and cryptographer Alan Turing. In 1950, he proposed the Turing Test — a test of “machine intelligence,” the term used prior to the formation of the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The test employs an imitation game, in which a judge asks questions of several interlocutors and must determine whether or not they are human, based on written communications. If the judge can’t tell from the responses if they are talking to a machine or a human, the machine has passed the test. …

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“Coyote” by licensed under CC BY 2.0

What do you really know about coyotes? Maybe you’ve heard the official line about the economic consequences of coyotes killing livestock. Maybe you know of a neighborhood cat that was taken. Maybe you’ve heard conservation groups protesting inhumane treatment of these animals, or recall Mark Twain’s “slim, sick, and sorry-looking skeleton…a living, breathing allegory of Want.” In reality, these animals are neither good nor evil, but are simply trying to survive the best they can in a world that is changing around them.

And as the coyote turns the cat to sweetness
in its mouth, a month-long stint of apricot
pit-, ant-filled scat, a month before of
birdseed, cricket, crappy sandwich…


Jessie Rack

Environmental Educator for the University of Arizona’s SEEC Program; PhD in Ecology from UConn. Writer, naturalist, hiker, runner, lover of playing outside.

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