The Spiritual “Turing Test”

First published Sep 14, 2011 on The Mormon Expression Blogs
Imagine that a person is sitting in a large room filled with many computers. At each computer terminal an individual sits interacting with their own computer. Each person has a monitor and a keyboard, but the actual computer unit cannot be accessed accept through interacting with the computer via the keyboard and monitor.
The individual at the computer can shape the way the computer works by typing into the computer information and instructions. Likewise, the computer feeds back information and instructions to the user. However, the computer program can be a bit erratic. It doesn’t always do exactly what the user tells it to do. It often mixes up information it was given, and sometimes it appears to just randomly issues strange information and instructions. Since no one knows exactly how the computer program works, some think that this information comes from outside sources. Users can change just about every aspect of the way the computer works, if they are patient enough. They can change the way the text looks, how it says thing and how it interacts with the user. However, they cannot control it completely; it still reacts to some things in unpredictable ways.
The room is laid out in such a way that the individuals can communicate with each other, but they cannot see or interact with the computers of the others in the room. It is clear that while each computer program is similar, they all work a little different. Different groups of users have different beliefs about how the program works. These groups set up rules for interacting with the computer and they believe if you do not follow the “right way“, the computer is much more likely to spit out false or misleading information. These users generally wish that everyone would follow the rules and they tend to believe that computer experience of all is polluted by the wrong interaction of some people and their computers.
Many of the computer users believe in the Benevolent Programmer (BP). They believe the BP sits at a computer terminal outside the room and he has access to all of the computers of the people in the room. He can monitor everything that is typed in and everything the computer prints on the screen. He also knows exactly how the program works. He, they believe, will often send users information and instructions that show up on their monitor. He especially favors those who believe in him and worship him.
Some also believe in the Malevolent Programmer (MP). They believe that the MP used to work for the BP and can mimic his methods and style. The MP wants to wreck the whole system. He also can send information and instructions that show up on the monitor, but his messages are simply to confuse the users and thwart the work of the BP.
There are a few who believe there is no such thing as a BP or MP. They believe that everything that appears on the screen can be explained by the program of the computer. They also believe there is no way to prove that any message come from the BP or the MP, since any message that claims to be from either of them could, in fact be from the program itself, since this is the kind of strange thing the program does.
The believers, however, are not convinced. They believe that if you pay attention closely to the messages and ask the computer with sincerity, it will tell you which messages are false and which are true. They believe that the rules of their group were inspired by the BP and the instructions will help you discern the right messages.
1. It there anyway possible to even know if there is a BP or MP?
2. How do we know that there is only one BP or MP and not 7 or 144,000?
3. How can anyone honestly assert they can tell the difference between the computer and the BP (or MP) since all they can evaluate is what appears on the computer?
4. Why would the BP insist people acknowledge his existence when he chooses to hid behind a system that conceals his existence?
5. Since the MP can mimic the BP, how can we believe anything at all, even if it seems to not come from our computer?