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Becoming tin men

August 3rd, 2015

From the 2015 introduction to the 1965 novel The Tin Men by Michael Frayn:

“I hadn’t in those days heard of the Turing Test—Alan Turing’s proposal that a computer could be said to think if its conversational powers were shown to be indistinguishable from a human being’s—so I didn’t realise that what I was suggesting was a kind of converse of it: a demotion of human beings to the status of machines if their intellectual performance was indistinguishable from a computer’s, and they become tin men in their turn. The William Morris Institute is about to be visited by the Queen for the opening of a new wing, and I realise with hindsight that I’ve used a similar idea quite often since: the grand event that goes wrong, and deposits the protagonists into the humiliating gulf that so often in life opens between intention and achievement. My characters at the Institute could have written a story programme for me and saved me a lot of work. I’ve become a bit of a tin man myself.”

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