I’ve seen the movie ‘Enigma‘ and was bloody impressed. I recently watched ‘Imitation Game’, and was equally impressed. Alan Turing, the FATHER of computer science and artificial intelligence received a pardon in 2014 after the government lent its support to a Bill that would overturn the wartime codebreaker’s conviction for being gay. Better late than never I guess?
Turing, who died from ingesting cyanide in 1954 at the age of 41, had been sentenced to CHEMICAL CASTRATION for the crime of gross indecency. Conspiracy theorists believe Turing ate an orange segment that had been spiked with the poison by the British secret service.
The mathematician, cryptanalyst, computer scientist, worked at the British government’s Second World War code-breaking headquarters at Bletchley Park. He is best known for having cracked the messages sent by the German Enigma machines.
Earlier in the year peers demanded that Turing be given a pardon. After all, being GAY is no longer a crime, that, and the nation…if not the world owes such a debt of gratitude to Alan Turing. Without the man’s genius, Britain may well have lost the war.
Geniuses think outside the box, and unlike ‘rock stars’ their ORIGINAL thinking is not induced by the consumption of hallucinogens. Geniuses must be given some latitude with regards to their personal behaviour because their work affects so many lives and in a positive way. Without Turing’s ‘thinking’ computer called Christopher, (algorithm & computation) where would IBM, Microsoft and Apple be today? It is doubtful you or I would be sitting on a train or aeroplane using a tablet! Had Alan Turing not been so hounded by the government and it’s agencies, no doubt fearing he might impart valuable info to agents of a foreign power, one can only imagine at how much more the man might have achieved in later life? Ironically of course, it wasn’t Alan Turing who behaved in a traitorous fashion, giving away all Britain’s most valuable secrets to Soviet Russia, but the socially adept members of the very agency (MI6) that probably once sought to control him: Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt! It has been suggested that the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square should be handed over to a statue of Turing. Bloody right, but will it ever happen?
So how would the gay man who saved the free world view the world we’ve created using his technology? Would Alan Turing view the 21st century through rose-tinted glasses, or would he be fearful? After all, some of the most powerful and sophisticated computers are designed to go to war. Big boys toys would be rendered impotent without hard drives and mother boards: Multi-roll jet fighters, nuclear subs, aircraft carriers, land-based missile silos. I have yet to read about a computer that is designed to keep the peace? So, is the human race any safer with a computer at everyone’s fingertips?
*By the way, for all you movie buffs out there, the rules of Turing’s ‘Imitation Game’ (set of specific questions) were used in the 1982 movie Blade Runner by Harrison Ford’s character Rick Deckard in determining whether individuals were human or replicants (genetically engineered machines). As I’m sure you also know, Blade Runner was an adaptation of Philip K. Dicks’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’