The Turing Machine




My poem “The Turing Machine” has been published in Alternating Current’s anthology “Spectral Lines: Poems About Scientists.” Here’s a full version below:



The Turing Machine

A message on a dating app:
one non committal hi from
an anonymous, bronzer glazed torso
No age, or location
but a list of inoffensive interests.
We chatted some minutes,
his suggestive semicolon winks
disinterested in responding to questions,
preferring vague flirtations.
He concluded with an advertisement: 
      Lonely in insert area?
      Local Singles Looking to Meet!
and a broken link to nowhere.

Blocking the adbot,
I thought of Alan Turing, decades ago,
theorizing artificial intelligence.
He decrypted the German Enigma
and formulated the algorithms
for the first general use computer,
yet, when he proposed his test
for determining if machines could think,
his criteria was not a formula,
but an exercise: The Imitation Game.
         If one cannot consistently tell the difference
         between answers supplied by man or machine,
         the machine could be deemed intelligent.

He offered no treatise on the possible cognition of
transistors versus synapses
or how binomial code could become conscious of
its own state as ones and zeroes.
Rather, he opened the idea
machine intelligence is subjective to the user.
It needs only to simulate
your own standards for engaging humanity.
Raise the level of desire just high enough
to catalyze into belief, and your own
consciousness does the thinking for it.

I thought, only a gay man on a lonely cold war night,
accompanied solely by the mechanical hum
of a difference engine in his lab,
could have predicted me.
Swiping left and right, dodging adbots,
skeptical of messages typed over rippling abs.
Desperate to avoid the tiny embarrassment
of accepting a flicker of intimacy
only to end with an ad for counterfeit Viagra.

Only a man arrested for buggery,
forced into the encryption of tea rooms and
handkerchief codes of the 50s, could envision
the 21st century Polari of digital communication.

Men born atomized,
intimately connected through the wire.
The base two testosterone of intelligent machines
blends in with their manned avatars,
not because they speak our language,
but because we have stripped
our desires to fit their code.

The ache for touch has been digitized
We upload pixels of skin
and imitate the screen.
The little fan in the tower whirls on
when it gets too hot.




One thought on “The Turing Machine

  1. I really like the comparison of the Turing Test to a dating app…. wondering if there’s something real on the other end of the conversation.

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