dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:24am on 2012-06-23

From Wikiquote

His high-pitched voice already stood out above the general murmur of well-behaved junior executives grooming themselves for promotion within the Bell corporation. Then he was suddenly heard to say: "No, I'm not interested in developing a powerful brain. All I'm after is just a mediocre brain, something like the President of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company."

-- Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: the Enigma of Intelligence (1983), p. 251; describing an incident which occurred in the New York AT & T lab cafeteria in 1943

Alan Turing would have been 100 years old today (b. 1912-06-23, d. 1954-06-07).

[When I queued this quote, I made a mental note to check the Google Doodle when today arrived. Sure enough, Google delivered, with something instantly recognizeable to thousands of computer nerds. If you don't know what it is, or if Turing's name is only fuzzily familiar in reference to the Turing Test, do at least skim the Wikipedia entry for an idea of how much we owe this man ... who was so very ill-treated by the government he had served once his sexual orientation became known. (He did get a posthumous apology -- important symbolism, though too late to do Turing himself any good.)]

dglenn: Me in poufy shirt, kilt, and Darth Vader mask, playing a bouzouki (vader)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 06:14pm on 2012-06-23

Sheesh. Today, of all days.

My brother came to visit my mother today, with his kids in tow (pretty sure Mom would've been terribly disappointed if he hadn't brought them). My nephew, who loves playing with Mom's computer, wanted to know how I made the signs he'd seen (just selecting a huge sans-serif font in TextEdit), so while everyone else was in the study I figured I'd whip up a wee demonstration via screen sharing, thinking it'd be easier than trying to reach over everyone in front of Mom's computer. Except, of course, that as soon as the screen saver went away, my nephew was drawn straight to his favourite toy here, and he started typing too. He also launched his favourite program, Photo Booth, which meant I could see what was going on in the room. When he left it recording a video and started clowning around for the camera, that gave me control of the keyboard and mouse again so I could type something in TextEdit ... and of course, he assumed the computer was talking to him, not his uncle talking to him via the computer from another room. And my brother, whose sense of humour has perhaps too much in common with our father's, our gandfather's, and mine, apparently decided to run with his son's first impression -- so I was waiting for him to catch on that he was talking to me, and my brother was Not Helping him realize that.

Since my initial plan had been to print some signs for him, I did print a few things. After that, whenever my nephew decided he wanted a souvenir of what was on the screen, he would hold up a piece of paper with the word "print" on it, and wave it in front of the camera.

My nephew has not yet seen The Wizard of Oz, so my "Pay no attention to the uncle behind the curtain" comment went over his head.

Being able to see facial expressions but not hear voices, it took me a while to realize just how confused he was (and that my brother was trying to maintain that status), but then he started testing the computer. "3x3=?", then, "What is my mother's name?" and, "What kind of car does my dad drive?" I was later told that at that point my brother said, "I don't think the computer has any cameras on the outside of the house," and my nepphew said, "It can access spy satellites or Google Earth." Anyhow, my response of, "A small white one?" made an impression. My typing his name in Greek letters apparently did as well. "Yia Yia's computer is really smart!" and, "Look, Yia Yia taught her computer Greek!" (Yia Yia is Greek for 'grandmother'.)

When we went out for a late lunch / early dinner, I was told that Mom had been on the verge of explaining what was really going on, but my brother stopped her. And Mom reminded me of the time when I was about that age, and Dad convinced me that Martians were finally answering my attempts to reach them by walkie-talkie. (Right, like I'm ever gonna forget that night -- yes, I was already thinking of the parallel.) When we got back, before he would get into my brother's car for the ride home, my nephew insisted on coming inside to "say goodbye to Mac" first. (When he had asked the computer's name, I answered with the name it shows up as for WiFi: BigShinyMac.)

So I got mistaken for an AI ... on Alan Turing's birthday. Oy. At least I got mistaken for a smart one (even though I made a few typos and could be seen backing up and correcting them).

I mentioned Turing, and (of course) got asked who that was. So I wrote: "Watch this," highlighted his name, right-clicked, and selected "Look up using Google", then clicked on the first link that showed up. "Yia Yia's computer even knows how to use Google, see? And it showed us an article about that guy. This computer is really smart." (The idea there was to teach a useful shortcut, in addition to answering the question.)

I need to figure out why text-to-speech was missing from the Services menu before my nephew's next visit, don't I?

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