Media Theory for the 21st Century

January 22, 2008

The Lacan Test vs The Turing Test

Filed under: Discussion — jeremy @ 9:38 am
Tags: , , ,

Hi people. In my comment on Kim’s post I mentioned Amazon’s Search Inside feature and suggested we consider how such features, and the statistics they make available, affect the writing process. But they of course affect reading and research at least as much, and I just realized that the thought experiment devised by Lacan and worked through by Kittler in “The World of the Symbolic” is available through Search Inside in its original translated form (search “lightning and thunder” to get the right page).

It’s worth noting that Lacan speaks even more directly than Kittler of “a materialist definition of the phenomenon of consciousness” (40). With this in mind it might make sense to read the Lacan Test alongside the Turing Test, so I devised a minor elaboration for the latter: make agent C (the judge) a computer. Forcing a machine to evaluate between A (the person) and B (the initial computer) might add a useful dimension. At the very least, the human becomes the odd-subject-out and competition is fostered between the machines. In this context we might also consider the various “positions” at work in Lacan’s apologue, including the position of the humans arbitrarily returned to “circulation” (46). What fun, whimsically obliterating and recirculating subjectivities!

P.S. I will bake brownies for anyone who can convince me that the following sentence from Kittler’s essay does not mean the opposite of what it’s intended to say: “The answer is negative, however, if ‘still’ designates all time t2 at which the reflection of the lightning bolt endures only as long as the flash itself” (131).

This negation game is a version of Labov’s test, discussed here and here on the world’s greatest linguistics blog. (For the record, I don’t think Kittler’s missed anything–I think there’s a typo, a mistranslation, or (most likely) that I’m missing something and will be baking soon.)

–Jeremy Schmidt

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