Would it be good to be infallible?

Secretly, even if you did not admit it, would you like to get every decision right every time? Can anyone be infallible?

Alan Turing was one of the people who made enormous contributions to code breaking during World War 2. He was fascinated by machines and what they might do. He worked out that it is not possible to solve every problem by logic alone. In seeking to determine whether machines could replace human beings he developed the 'Turing Test' which is still referred to today. This is the test: if a machine can really think then a person interrogating the machine and a human being from behind a screen should not be able to tell the difference.

In reading an article* about him recently I was struck by another of his conclusions, or paradoxes: that if a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent – because part of what makes us human is that we get to solutions by making mistakes. If as human beings we are to learn well from our mistakes, it seems to me that we need to also to develop skills to do so – skills of review or reflection.

I think I'd rather be intelligent than infallible. I enjoy learning, and value the ability to learn!

Furthermore learning is at the core of most of the interpersonal work that I do, and I seek to help people to learn during the conversations that we have and also to live life in such a way that on an ongoing basis they review the results of what they do to maximise their learning (and, to an extent, their awareness).

Besides, I think my children probably destroyed any attempt of mine at infallibility a long time ago!

*Third Way magazine, March 2010.
(If talking about infallibility brings up thoughts of religion, it may be worth noting that Alan was an atheist.)

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