Dress for Success

P.N. Furbank

  • Monsieur d’Eon is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade by Gary Kates
    Basic Books, 368 pp, $25.00, May 1995, ISBN 0 465 04761 0

In his famous paper ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ (1950), Alan Turing described something he called the ‘Imitation Game’. In this game, a man and a woman are shut up in a room, and an interrogator, communicating with them from outside by means of written messages, attempts, by questioning, to discover which is the man and which the woman – it being the object of the man to pretend to be a woman and of the woman to expose him as a man. Now, argues Turing, imagine the part of the man being taken over by a machine, and, this machine putting up a good performance, would we not be inclined to say that the machine was ‘thinking’? Let us observe the logical intricacy, and beauty, of this mind-experiment. The machine is attempting to simulate not simply a man (in the sense of a member of the human species) but a man (in the sense of a member of the male sex) who is simulating a woman. Life compelled the hero of the present book to take part in a game somewhat of this kind, and he made an impressive showing, but every now and then the logic of the thing would be too much for him.

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