In a country where women are banned from driving or even going out on their own, it’s no wonder that Saudi Arabia has a thriving girl gamer community. Where there are geeks and gamers, there will be conventions, but females were also stopped from attending regular gaming cons, so they formed their own, according to a NPR report.
GCON is in its fourth year, and 3,000 Saudi girl gamers attended the con, held in a Riyadh hotel convention center. Tasneem Salim and Felwa al-Swailem are GCON’s organizers, and they managed to not only expand the convention into a second city but also garner the sponsorship of Playstation and the Chinese mobile tech company Huawei. Since 50 percent of gamers are female, GCON has the potential to expand and increase even further in size.
Attendees play games like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty and Uncharted, cosplay their favorite characters and receive encouragement to aim for STEM careers. Like gamers everywhere, they invest hundreds of hours in their favorite obsession.
“They call themselves geeks,” said al-Swailem. “There’s no embarrassment. I call myself a geek, too. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing.”
Cultural restrictions are slowly loosening on women in Saudi Arabia, with new voting rights and talk of some women being allowed to eventually represent themselves in society. For the next generation, gamers may be leading the way and leveling up to a better life.
First there was the Turing Test, then the Lovelace Test. Now there’s Lovelace 2.0, an intelligence test for the next generation. While the focus of Turing’s methodology was all about the fake out, this test requires a computer program to gaze into its own navel and come up with something unexpected.
The first Lovelace Test, named for geek pioneer Ada Lovelace, theorized in 2001 that instead of tricking people into believing a computer was a human, it would be more effective if the computer could create something artistically unique, something beyond the output expected by the test’s creators.
“It’s important to note that Turing never meant for his test to be the official benchmark as to whether a machine or computer program can actually think like a human,” said Mark Riedl, an associate professor at Georgia Tech and the scientist behind Lovelace 2.0. “And yet it has, and it has proven to be a weak measure because it relies on deception. This proposal suggests that a better measure would be a test that asks an artificial agent to create an artifact requiring a wide range of human-level intelligent capabilities.”
While the original Lovelace Test merely required the original creation to be a surprise, Lovelace 2.0 sets up parameters based on the originality of the computer’s creation and not necessarily the quality of it. In essence, if the computer creates an original song, poem or other piece of art, the only thing that counts is its uniqueness and not if humans like it or understand it. Someone break out the digital berets, because it sounds like computers may have a future in artistic expression.
Photo: Andrew Becraft
If you still believe the old trope that computers and electronics have always been a man’s field, think again. Women have always been involved in computer sciences, and the National Museum of Computing in Great Britain has made it official with a gallery devoted to women’s contributions. While we had Grace Hopper and Hedy Lamarr, they had Mary Coombs, the first female programmer, and Kathleen Booth, who literally wrote the (the first) book on Assembly programming.
The above clip is a very brief interview with Joyce Wheeler, who used the EDSAC computer, a room-sized computing machine built in 1949 for Cambridge University. The clip is part of a series on Computing Heritage, so when you have some time and want some knowledge, sit down with your popcorn and enjoy all the nerdy delights.