Ex-Spec Po Presents: Novel Uses For Unused Clock-Cycles, for the Convenience of Persons Computing for Business or for Pleasure, and Other Reasons, Whereby a Vast Amount of Time, Labor, and Trouble is Wasted

by Peter H. Michaels


Poetic Statement: I want my reader to be as captivated by my obsessions as I am. The "Imitation Game" was a popular party game in the 1950s. A questioner would decide which of two guests was behind each of two doors by reading the typed answers slipped out from under each of the respective doors. Alan Turing proposed that we could answer the question, "Can machines think?" by creating a computer program that could play the "Imitation Game" and consistently fool a human questioner into believing it was human. (If you’ve ever proven you’re a human online with CAPTCHA, then you’ve played the modern version of the "Imitation Game" – "Turing test" is in that acronym.) Ned Block argued Turing’s test wasn’t a measure of true intelligence because we could write out all the possible questions and answers for the computer and a simple program could navigate this choose-your-own-adventure type decision tree. What Block failed to consider was that if his algorithm answered more than a hundred questions, then it needed more possible answers than the number of particles in the universe. Block designed a machine that worked in theory, but could never be built because it required an impossible amount of resources. For me, it’s awestriking how the unknown is tied just as much to our resources as it is our will. I’m also amazed by the hope inherent in surmounting the potential futility of pursuing the extraordinary.


Bio: Peter H. Michaels' poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from Nimrod, Cagibi, Barren, and other places. His poetry book reviews have been published by PANK magazine’s blog and Sugar House Review. Peter earned a BS in computer engineering. His website is peterhmichaels.com.