, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 21-25
Date: 22 Feb 2012

Turing’s man: a dialogue

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We can never emulate their meekness,

soft servants of durable material:

they live without pretension

in complicated relays and electrical circuits.

Speed, docility are their strength.

One asks: “What is 2 × 2?”—“Are you a machine?”

They answer or

refuse to answer, depending on what you demand.

There are, however, other machines as well,

more abstract automatons, bolder and more


which eat their tape in mathematical formulae.

They imitate in language. In infinite

loops, farther and farther back in their retreat

towards more subtle

algorithms, more recursive functions.

They are logical and describe themselves.

As when a man with a hand-mirror pressed against his nose

in front of a mirror

sees in infinite rows the same image multiplied

in a shrinking, darkening corridor of glass.

It is a Gödel theorem as good as any. He sees infinity,

but what he does not see is his face.

(From Göran Printz-Påhlson´s poem “The Turing Machine” published in Säg minns du skeppet Refanut? Samlade dikter 1950–1983 (1984) Bonniers, Stockholm).