Mind Reader

Marcus Schmickler and Julian Rohrhuber, for an evening with George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell
CTM 2018

The Mind Reader is an invention that helped lay the foundation for machine learning in the midst of the Cold War, and that also had a wide reception in psychoanalysis and media theory by way of Jacques Lacan. Invented in the 1950s by Claude Shannon, the Mind Reader was inspired by game theory, American Romantic literature, and Shannon's belief that people are not a good source of random behaviour. The machine plays an "odds and evens" game with a human player, refining its guess about the opponent's next move with each new round. The project sounds out the peculiar setup that allows such an extremely simple mechanism to outwit us all. What seemed like a mere zero-sum game might turn out to have been a conversation of a different kind all along.