The Turing test is a means of assessing whether an automated system is truly intelligent by testing its ability to simulate an actual human being in conversation…the test to be conducted via terminals, over a communications link. Here’s an excerpt from Alan Turing’s own example of a hypothetical conversation:
Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” would not “a spring day” do as well or better?
Witness: It wouldn’t scan.
Interrogator: How about “a winter’s day,” That would scan all right.
Witness: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter’s day.
Interrogator: Would you say Mr. Pickwick reminded you of Christmas?
Witness: In a way.
Interrogator: Yet Christmas is a winter’s day, and I do not think Mr. Pickwick would mind the comparison.
Witness: I don’t think you’re serious. By a winter’s day one means a typical winter’s day, rather than a special one like Christmas.
At a considerably lower literary level, quite a few automated telephony systems today make an attempt to convince their targets that they are dealing with an actual human being, at least for a few seconds.
The ideological Turing test…the term was invented by Bryan Caplan, following some comments by Paul Krugman…refers to an individual’s ability to accurately state opposing political and ideological views. Caplan quotes John Stuart Mill: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”
My observation is that neither side in America’s current political divisions is over-endowed with people capable of passing the ITT. Paul Krugman asserted, unsurprisingly, that liberals do it better:
“A liberal can talk coherently about what the conservative view is because people like me actually do listen. We don’t think it’s right, but we pay enough attention to see what the other person is trying to get at. The reverse is not true. You try to get someone who is fiercely anti-Keynesian to even explain what a Keynesian economic argument is, they can’t do it. They can’t get it remotely right. Or if you ask a conservative, “What do liberals want?” You get this bizarre stuff – for example, that liberals want everybody to ride trains, because it makes people most susceptible to collectivism.”
“We tested how well liberals and conservatives could understand each other. We asked more than two thousand Americans to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. One third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a “typical conservative” would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were. Who was best able to pretend to be the other? The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal”.
Haidt suggests that conservatives base their moral decisions on a broader set of criteria than do liberals, and hence that “versatility makes conservatives more familiar with the limited moral repertoire of liberals than liberals of the more expansive moral universe of conservatives.” It has also been suggested that, since the culture is largely dominated by people and institutions on the Left, conservatives are more exposed to opposing views than are liberals, who are largely either sheltered from opposing views or presented with them in skewed, comic-book form.
I think the most useful version of the ITT would ask people not only to predict the responses of their ideological opponents, but also the rationale that their opponents would give for those responses. For example: most liberals and “progressives” would probably predict correctly the positive attitudes of Evangelical Christians toward Israel…but I suspect they would do much worse at correctly assessing the constellation of reasons for this positive view to be held.
Traditional high school and college debate, at least the policy-debate variant, required the participants to be able to argue both sides of whatever question was at issue, and was surely very valuable in developing the ability to think like the opposition. I believe that policy debate, at least at the college level, still does require individuals and teams to argue both side of the selected topic…but there is now so much emphasis on verbal fireworks, very fast speaking (‘spreading’), and bizarre meta-arguments, that I suspect that much of that value has been lost.
The ability to develop some understanding of the opposition’s thinking is obviously important for the reduction of pointless demonization of that opposition; it is also an obvious factor in effective political marketing, and one that is in many cases clearly missing.