CLEVELAND, OH—Republican Vice-Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin suffered another setback this weekend in the form of allegations the McCain campaign concealed that Palin failed a Turing Test during her physical in October. The revelation comes one week after the release of the candidate’s full medical records, prompting questions why the report was left out of that release. McCain spokesman Samantha Hymes says that the test was omitted because it was unimportant, “The test in question was not part of the physical. It was given to the Governor by mistake and is not relevant to her health.” Hymes then reminded reporters that neither Barak Obama or Joe Biden has taken a Turing Test at all.
The Turing Test, first proposed by Alan Turing in the 1950, is an intelligence test for machines that gauges a computer’s ability to respond naturally in conversation against that of a human being. Sarah Palin sat at a computer in one room and held a series of three typed conversations with examiners in a separate room who attempted to determine whether the person they were speaking to was a human being, or just a computer pretending to be one.
The Governor was unable to convince any of the examiners she was a human, in one round the test administrator instead becoming “very confident” that the control subject, an Apple (APPL) MacBook Air computer, was actually the real person.
Dr. Peter Silberman defended results of the test. He characterized Palin’s performance as “unconvincing.” “We asked [Sarah Palin] about a report by an Alaskan Legislative Committee which found she had unlawfully abused her authority in the firing of a state trooper, and she responded that she was glad the report had cleared her of any wrongdoing. That is a classic ELIZA-level mis-response.” ELIZA was a 1966 computer program which fooled many early Turing questioners by delivering canned answers, rephrasing the interviewers’ question back at them, or falling back on clever non-sequiturs to disguise the lack of an answer. Testing standards are now more stringent.
The failed test has become an ugly black eye on Palin’s medical records, replacing the much-joked-about mis-recording of her weight as 136 kilograms instead of 136 pounds and the post-partum gynecological check-up which noted the Governor had “a cervix like a steel clamp.” If he wins Palin’s running-mate John McCain, a 72-year-old torture victim and cancer survivor, would be the oldest person ever elected to the highest office. This ‘age factor’ has made his Vice-Presidential pick, a political null-factor in most recent elections, the focus of almost unprecedented scrutiny. Opponents question whether the 44 year old Palin, who has served just two years as Alaska’s Governor, will be prepared to take over if John McCain dies in the White House.
The Turing Test report, which cited the candidate’s “inability to answer straightforward questions” among its deciding factors, has become a major embarrassment. Palin herself dismissed the controversy, “I may not answer the questions the way that either the [tester] or you want to hear, but I’m gonna talk straight to the American people and let ‘em know my track record also.” Dr. Silberman defended the test, but cautioned against inflating its significance. “She’s a little stiff when put on the spot, but anyone gets nervous when they know you’re analyzing and scrutinizing their every word. It’s just human nature.”
Palin referenced the controversy again Sunday night at a speech about a new national defense network. “I may not be the best at talking on computers, but I sure know how to deal with Russia! And I promise you, if I have to send Putin a message, my finger will be on a button that doesn’t leave much room for confusion, you betcha!” She then mimed a ‘pow-pow’ handgun gesture and winked as the audience applauded.
Dr. Silberman also thinks the media has exaggerated the test’s significance. “It's not like anyone is suggesting that Sarah Palin is actually a machine from the future sent to destroy the savior of humanity.” He rolls his eyes at the idea. “That’s just silly.”