‘Can machines think?’
Alan Turing posed this question in his seminal 1950 paper ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ that laid the foundations for research into artificial intelligence. Turing’s life and work provide the inspiration for Machinations, a poetic collaboration between Kinneson Lalor and JP Seabright published by Trickhouse Press. Fiercely intelligent, dazzlingly inventive and profoundly insightful, Machinations does justice not only to the depth, breadth and creative genius of Turing’s intellectual achievements but also to the complex layers of his personality.
I asked Kinneson and JP how the book came into being, their experience of working together and what informed their creative choices.
The Golden Ratio, denoted by the Greek letter phi, is an irrational number that has intrigued mathematicians and artists through the centuries, featuring in geometry, number theory, physics, biology, painting, architecture, music and other disciplines. Its value to 20 digits is
Squeezed awkwardly between the round completeness
of 10 and factored convenience of 12,
11 is the odd one out. We don’t have
11 fingers or toes; we never buy
11 rolls, or eggs, or long-stemmed roses
for our lover. In binary notation
its digits become the three of us, on our
terrace with coffee and scones in the sunlight
and birdsong of June, while the radio plays
Test Match Special and 11 extends its
parallel arms towards the unbounded sky.
This is a square poem: there are 11 syllables per line and 11 lines.
It was first published in The Book of Penteract.
over the gravel
to my flowerbeds, where hostas
that I had tended so carefully have been reduced
to tattered shreds. A robin perches among panicles of lilac as you approach
with buttered scones and coffee. Light slants through leaves, glistens the slime trail silver. Everything contributes to the dazzle of this day – even snails.
This Fibonacci poem was first published in The Fib Review Issue #41
Sometime during the fourth century, in northwest China, a woman named Su Hui picked up her silk thread and embarked on an embroidery project. The result was an extraordinary work of visual poetry – a grid of 29 x 29 characters, shuttle-woven on brocade to form a palindrome poem that would become known as Xuanji Tu, or the ‘Star Gauge’.
In his 1982 book ‘The Fractal Geometry of Nature’ the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot explored ‘irregular and fragmented patterns around us’ that ‘tend to be scaling, implying that the degree of their irregularity and/or fragmentation is identical at all scales.’
He called this family of shapes fractals, from the Latin adjective fractus, meaning fragmented or irregular. Such objects, Mandelbrot noted, are present in nature as well as in a wide range of fields.