Where was Dilbert when I was a kid?

When I was younger, one of the coins of social trade in my circles was the witty insult. While I do not so trade today — striving, rather, to keep my speech full of grace and seasoned with salt (a la Colossians 4:6) as opposed to Tabasco or cayenne pepper — I still appreciate a well-formed stinger when I come across one. Today’s Dilbert (3/29/2008) had one:

“Congratulations. You’re the first human to fail the Turing test.”

For those who wish to chastise me for my self-contradictory impulses (speak with grace… Ooooo, what a great zinger!), I will humbly accept your comments. And for those who are worried as to whether or not they, themselves, might pass the Turing test, here’s a comforting Wikipedia entry to the rescue: Turing Test.

14 thoughts on “Where was Dilbert when I was a kid?

  1. How about another pair of opposing impulses: the desire to communicate clearly and the desire to communicate in “geekspeak”? 🙂 Now there’s something I can relate to.

    The Wikiarticle will only be a comfort if people can understand it. Just trying to follow some of it makes me think I rate my own intelligence at least half again too high. Maybe that’s a good thing…it’s just that the hamster that powers my brain gets tired after running so many laps. 🙂

  2. stushie

    Here’s a poser…do you ever wonder if the great computer in the sky that we call the Internet is actually growing in intelligence through all of the messages and blogs that we write??? I wonder what turing would have to say about that.

    Dumb question, I guess, considering all of the trash that’s on the nternet

    Interesting thoughts from your blog. I enjoyed reading them.

  3. Howdy, Mr. Wheeler and stushie —

    stushie: Thanks for the kind words! Sadly, the more relevant question would be whether or not with all of the messages and blogs that we read on the Internet, are we growing intelligence. Sadder still would be the answer! 🙂

    Thanks for visiting!

    Mr. Wheeler: I think the nice thing about that Wikipedia article is that the point one needs to understand to get the joke is communicated very clearly at the very beginning of the article: If one has a communication with someone or something else and cannot figure out if the “intelligence” on the other side is a human being or a computer, then, if a computer, it has passed the Turing test for intelligence. If you get that then you get it!

    (BTW: I find that some hamsters require Dr Pepper for optimal performance.)

  4. Alex

    Hello again…

    I’ve been meaning to check in with you again… but you have been busy and so have I.

    I can appreciate your sentiment… about contradictory impulses. I tend to describe it as the ability to think as one who is unconverted. Not a skill one should desire to cultivate perhaps, but it does keep one from being terribly surprised or put off by the world. But perhaps in my own case it serves as a reminder that the “old man” is not entirely dead – and that there is more work to do.

    I hope everyone’s preparation for the Passover and D.U.B. is going well.

  5. Hi Mr. Smith,

    My hamster prefers coffee and cocoa (made from scratch or as a Starbucks or Godiva mocha), although Dr Pepper works on occasion. 🙂 (I notice that you left out the period in DP, correctly; it took the hamster a moment to register that and correct its own automatic inclusion.)

    Yes, the article does state very nicely its overall point, and that I got with no problem. (I was introduced to the whole concept long ago, through a novel by Robert Heinlein. It also introduced me to The Three Laws of Semantics, which I later found in the printed Ency. Brit.’s excellent article on “semantics” — though not given as “laws” there. I recommend you look that up.) The summary of the deeper issues involved (materialism vs. dualism) was excellent too. So was the discussion of how a machine could be intelligent in a way humans are not and still fail the Turing test. And really, in hindsight so much else falls into place in my head now. But when I saw the article originally, it was late, and Hammy the Hamster was in no shape to follow everything just then.

    Let me say too (if I may) that my current estimate of your IQ is about 180 and climbing. But some of that may be more due to God-given insight (which is not the same as intelligence) and less due to native gifts (which I deem to be formidible). Keep the insight and the intelligence will continue to bless us all!

  6. Howdy, and thanks for your kind words. Actually, it is easier to seem smart on a blog, where the depths of one’s knowledge or analysis can’t be tested. Really, I wouldn’t put my IQ at anything more than 179. Tops.

  7. Everybody likes a good zinger. As long as it’s not petty or venal, I don’t mind taking an occasional shot. It can be funny both funny and useful.

    My guilty pleasure is watching old “Three Stooges” videos. The ladies in the family think it’s stupid, so they migrate to a different room. Us guys keep telling them, ‘of course it’s stupid. That’s the whole point.’

  8. Thomas

    I had to laugh when I read that in one of the studies trained and experienced psychiatrists could only tell the difference between a human and a machine less than 50% of the time.
    Consider all the implications of that! 🙂 😦 :0

  9. Sorry to take up yet more space, but Thomas reminds me of something I used to watch avidly on cable in my very early teens: “It Pays To Be Ignorant” (a remake of the old radio show — both being spoofs of “What’s My Line?”). Even the host was the same: the late lamented comedian and actor, Joe Flynn.

    It is highly unlikely that the panelists would pass a Turing test of any sophistication. (This is an exaggeration, but only a slight one.) My mother was totally perplexed as to why I enjoyed the show so much — and I mean in a laugh-out-loud way. Well, it was the sheer absurdity — the brute-force stupidity — of it all, which was in fact founded on quick wits (like all brilliant satire). I howled.

    Memorable line (in both incarnations of the show) by Joe Flynn: “He was born ignorant and he’s been losing ground ever since!” 🙂

  10. Thomas

    Sorry Mr. Smith to drag this post out, but a clarification is in order.

    Mr. Wheeler…are you in fact saying that I am ignorant 😦 or that I am quick witted. 🙂

    I actually felt quite good about reading reply#11 until I realised that it could be taken the other way. 😉

  11. Maybe the best way to answer, Thomas, is to give a few lines from the theme song of the show:

    It pays to be ignorant;
    It’s smart to play dumb;
    It’s great when you demonstrate
    You’re ridiculous as they come…

    “Smart to play dumb”. That’s the key. It takes real genius to act as idiotic as the panelists did. Draw your own conclusions. 🙂

  12. Thomas

    I know someone was zinged (or is that zung?)…

    Seriously though, thanks for indulging me with some byplay Mr. Wheeler, and thanks to our gracious host Mr. Smith for allowing it.

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