Is a wizard in software design animate or inanimate? More of a philosophical question I guess.


If you are talking about person use who.

He's a wizard who always makes good programs.

If you are talking about a thing use that.

It's a wizard program that installs the software.


Unless your Wizard can pass the Turing Test it is a "what" not a "who" no matter how animated it is. Mickey Mouse manages to pass the test (after a fashion) so get's to be a "who" despite not being an actual person.

Using "that" side steps the whole issue so maybe go with that.

I'll admit I'm applying the Turing test in a non-traditional way (hence, "after a fashion"). The it vs who choice isn't really about what you "know" about a subject. It's about how you "feel". We all know Mickey Mouse isn't a real person but we don't care, he feels like one. So he's a who. Referring to a computers Wizard program as a who doesn't indicate that the speaker thinks it's a person. It indicates that the speaker feels like it's one.

Sailors sometimes refer to their ship as a "she" for the same reason. It's called athromorphication. People sometimes name their cars.

If someone corrects you when you call the computers Wizard an it instead of a who they aren't correcting your English. They are telling you how they feel about the Wizard and objecting to you not feeling the same.

So when I dredge up the Turing Test for this issue I'm really telling you how I feel about this Wizard would depend a lot on it's ability to pass that test. Some go so far as to want to extend human rights to such software. Again, this all comes down to how people feel.

  • now that i think of it, it would be the same for an "assistent" unless of course it has a name like Siri or Cortana - although I doubt they would pass that test... – BootstrapBill Aug 7 '15 at 17:13
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    The wizard hardly needs to demonstrate independent intelligence or self-awareness, it just needs to be personified (as with Mickey Mouse). S Voice is a what, Siri is a who. The United States government is a what, Uncle Sam is a who. The Dodge Fury is a what, Christine is a who. – choster Aug 7 '15 at 17:52
  • @choster are you agreeing with Candied Orange? Until a software wizard has a "name" it is, and always will be a thing, not a person, which is what CO seems to be saying. +1 for "using that side steps the whole issue..". – Mari-Lou A Aug 8 '15 at 9:54
  • @choster The Dodge Fury is a what, Christine is a who. Christine might be a car. I believe we are in agreement. I've updated the answer to make that position clearer. – candied_orange Aug 8 '15 at 13:46

If you're talking about the installation/configuration wizards, it's inanimate: "He designed a wizard that automatically configured the software to the local network."

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