The Turing Test is a famous method for determining if a computer exhibits intelligent behavior. The idea, basically, is to have a human judge engage in an natural language conversation via keyboard and screen with two entities: another human and a computer. If the judge can’t tell the difference between them, the computer is said to exhibit intelligence. (Try to construct an effective definition of “intelligence” from first principles to see why the Turing Test is such a clever idea.)
It is now possible to devise an updated version of the Turing Test, which I call the Friedman Inverse Test. A judge gives a computer a set of writings, each of which is either a Thomas Friedman column, or a very precise parody of a Thomas Friedman column. If the computer cannot correctly distinguish between the two, then it is intelligent.
Sunday is, I think, the biggest day for newspapers, so the NYT’s “Sunday Review” was surprisingly slim pickings, even for satire. Of course there’s the Friedman’s latest evacuation, in which he explains that all recent events are because “the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected”; but this lucid prose mainly made me go from bored to hyper-bored. It any event, it feels a bit de trop to make fun of something that is practically making fun of itself.
In desperation I even looked at Maureen Dowd’s column. Dowd I consider perhaps the battiest political writer with a national audience, a person who kind of publicly free-associates in paragraphs of one to two sentences. You imagine her slightly (or not-so-slightly) tipsy in a fashionable Manhattan apartment, aggressively paragraphinating her text in order to make it fill the requisite column-inches. The purpose of today’s contribution seems to lie exclusively in letting the country know that Mitt Romney once “put Seamus, his Irish setter, in a dog carrier strapped to the roof of the family station wagon for a 12-hour drive from Boston to Ontario.” I guess Dowd is trying to suggest that this is animal cruelty, which sounds right, although it also sounds like about as much fun as a dog could possibly have.