I just came across this brilliant lecture, “Imitation Games: Conspiratorial Sciences and Intelligent Machines,” given recently by Simon Schaffer. I’ve noted Schaffer’s work before on early automata. Here he extends his interest in our fascination with automata to post-WWII paranoia.
Schaffer illustrates the intelligence backdrop to Turing’s work, and particularly the paranoia among communists and capitalists alike about one another’s treachery. Each were convinced the enemy was experimenting with brainwashing – and they were – and they were interested especially in the plot to brainwash a captured enemy to return home and assassinate someone (cue The Manchurian Candidate). Critical here is the notion of “passing” among the enemy as one of their own while being programmed to kill. It was in this circumstance that Turing raised the Imitation Game, or a contest in which a computer tries to pass as a human. Brilliant stuff, and it brings a third dimension to the history of AI.