All the entries in the Ideological Turing Test are up, and I could really use your help bumping up the sample size. Voting in the atheist round ends Saturday night and polls for the Christian round close Wednesday night. Which means all will be revealed on Thursday morning.
If you’re visiting from Jen’s blog and aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, let me explain in the next Take. (Regular readers, skip to #3).
In a normal Turing Test, computer scientists try to write a program that’s really good at mimicking human conversation. They want one that’s so good that if you talk to it, and then to a human volunteer, you can’t tell which is which.
An Ideological Turing Test doesn’t challenge computers to imitate humans. It challenges us to imitate the people we fiercely disagree with. You have to understand human conversation really well to be able to write a program that mimicks it, and you have to understand your opponents’ arguments and thought processes really well to be able to write like them. The Ideological Turing Test is meant to catch us making faulty assumptions about the people we’re fighting with.
So, in round one, atheists give honest answers to prompts and Christians try to blend in by giving the answers they think an atheist would right. In round two, the roles shift and it’s Christians who are sincere and atheists who are shamming. I need you guys to read the entries and make your best guess about the true beliefs of the author, so we can see how successful they were. So pop back up to Quick Take number one and follow the links!
Whilst in England, I somehow missed being a spectator at the Cotswold Shin-Kicking Championships. In which:
The sport of shin kicking is taken seriously around these parts, with contestants travelling the length and breadth of the country to turn up, stuff straw down their socks and kick each other to smithereens.
Shin-kicking judge James Wiseman gave us the lowdown on one of the simplest, but most painful, of Britain’s sports.
“The easiest way to describe it is it’s a bit like wrestling but with a lot of contact below the knees,” he said.
“The idea is really to throw the person to the ground, but to throw the person to the ground you’ve got to unbalance by kicking them first.”
The rules of shin kicking are very simple. Kick your opponent to the ground and you win. No throwing, tripping or pulling – the “fall” must be precipitated by a kick to the shins.
I’m pretty sure this is still morally superior to concussion and dementia-inducing football.
And speaking of physically punishing activities that have taken place in England, now or in the past, are you familiar with trials by ordeal? Academic Peter Leeson has an unusual analysis of them that will be forthcoming in the Journal of Law and Economics. Here’s the abstract:
I argue that medieval judicial ordeals accurately assigned accused criminals’ guilt and innocence. They did this by leveraging a medieval superstition called iudicium Dei. According to that superstition, God condemned the guilty and exonerated the innocent through clergy conducted physical tests. Medieval citizens’ belief in iudicium Dei created a separating equilibrium in which only innocent defendants were willing to undergo ordeals. Conditional on observing a defendant’s willingness to do so, the administering priest knew he was innocent and manipulated the ordeal to find this. My theory explains the peculiar puzzle of ordeals: trials of fire and water that should’ve condemned most persons who underwent them did the reverse. They exonerated these persons instead. Boiling water rarely boiled persons who plunged their arms in it. Burning iron rarely burned persons who carried it. Ordeal outcomes were miraculous. But they were miracles of mechanism design.
I know I mentioned this contest a while ago, but the NYT has finally reported on the result of their “What is a Flame?” contest, which challenged people to come up with an explanation of what a flame is that would be fairly accurate and accessible to an eleven year old. (In fact, the judges were all eleven year olds).
In the general awesomeness category: Wendy Tsao makes plushes out of children’s sketches.
Finally, I appreciate everyone’s stamina in reading through the Turing Test entries. When I’m tired, I like to kickback with a cosplay montage that’s also a lipsync. Yay!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!