gendered Turing tests and strategies for concealing and identifying gender online

"In the prelude to How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles describes two different variations on the Turing test. The most famous one, the one many of us may know, involves a person using some kind of computerized chat interface to talk to either a computer, or a human in another room. It is the task of the test subject to determine, from conversation, whether their interlocutor is human or machine. Passing the Turing test has long been seen as one of the holy grails of artificial intelligence. When computers are able to pass as human, the argument goes, one of the distinctions between humans and computers dissolves.

Hayles also describes another Turing test. This one starts in the same way as the previous, with a human participant talking to someone in another room through a computerized chat interface. But in this one, the discussion partner on the other side is definitely human. The goal of the participant is, instead, to determine whether their conversation partner is male or female. If this second Turing test has similar stakes to the first, Hayles asks, does an ability to fool the participant negate the gender of the human on the other side? (...)

There's a huge spectrum of ways that gender is represented, discussed, made an issue, or turned into infrastructure on the internet. Different platforms construct gender as an issue of varying importance. In some software development communities (on mailing lists, in IRC), it's generally considered impolite to ask people for personal details that they're not readily volunteering. A comment raised by this is the idea that many women don't get noticed or counted because they don't mention or make obvious their gender, because the default or un-gendered stated is considered to be male. If someone does not make it explicitly clear that she is a woman, she is assumed to be a man. If someone makes it explicitly clear that they are something other than simply a woman or man, it starts a discussion, which may or may not be welcome to the person who has accidentally instigated it. So on one side of this spectrum, there's communities where disclosing gender is not structurally necessary and speculation is entirely a private activity by individuals; on the other side of the spectrum, there are platforms like Facebook, where including a gender is a required activity in profile building, and where the default is man or woman, unless you choose to start writing in an answer, and then there's an authorized list of possibilities. Gender is built into the bedrock of Facebook. We take for granted that we can find out what gender someone is on Facebook. Moreso, we take for granted that we can find out what gender someone is, in general."

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