Huckleberry Finn Takes The Turing Test

This essay is about the relation between social statuses, mental states, and material substances; the indexical signs used to infer such underlying kinds; the conditions for and consequences of the ontologies that license such inferences; and the potentially reflexive and transformative relations individuals bearing such identities have towards each other and themselves. While it begins with what may be called the Huckleberry Finn Test (inferring gender in face-to-face interaction), it concludes with the Turing Test (deciding between human and computer in teletype-mediated communication). It argues that most thought about this test has focused on a very limited type of inference. And it shows four other important ways our indexical encounters with others can both transform, and be transformed by, our ontologies.