“There must be something wrong with this, Sally”¦” Faults, Lapses and Imperfections in the Sex Lives of Machines


  • Ken Hollings


Starting with a remarkable private recording made by two drunken women, identified only as “Sal Boo” this essay looks at how imperfections, slips and lapses have characterized our relationship with technology. As the women jeer, curse and make lewd suggestions to their home phonograph, which they rightly suspect to be malfunctioning, the provenance of these mistakes is revealed to be both intimate and highly charged. Linked via Norbert Weiner’s concept of feedback, as outlined in his theory of Cybernetics, and Turing’s adaptation of the Imitation Game as a test for machine intelligence, the responses of conversational programmes such as ELIZA and PARRY, as well later iterations such as Clever-Bot, reveal a similar set of errors at work in the networked relationship between humans and machines of today.