Jane Alexander

the inspiration behind Jane Alexander’s short fiction, ‘Enjoy Speaking To Another Person Like Me’

It was through fiction that I learned about Alan Turing. By chance, I read two books in quick succession – Scarlett Thomas’s PopCo, and Robert Harris’s Enigma – that featured Turing, and in particular his wartime work at Bletchley. Perhaps, for me, it’s the impenetrability of mathematical concepts that makes this world so fascinating and frustrating. Though I’ve always loved the idea of secret codes, in a Famous Five / Red Hand Gang kind of way (I once owned a fantastic toy set that equipped you to be a spy, complete with code wheel and secret agent pen) I have no gift for logical patterning, and certainly not for any kind of mathematical thinking. It’s through fiction that I can get closest to some kind of understanding, or at least appreciation.

Having assumed the Turing Test was a kind of thought experiment, I was surprised to learn it’s actually staged every year: so far, no artificial intelligence has successfully passed itself off as human. But perhaps in any case being human is not so much about our outsides, and the face we present as we interact with others, as our insides – how we think, remember, associate, dream. That’s what ‘Enjoy Speaking To Another Person Like Me’ explores.

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