If you’re reading these words,
It is thanks to Alan Turing
Born June 23, 1912, Alan Turing was no ordinary mathematical genius. Turing displayed unparalleled aptitude at an early age, able to solve his teacher’s complex equations before being taught calculus. By the age of 24 his paper “On Computable Numbers” hypothesized the idea of a “universal machine;” later called the “universal Turing machine;” and then simply the “Turing machine” capable of computing anything. Today’s modern computers are based on the core concepts of his 1936 paper.
During World War II, Turing was recruited to work at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking center, tasked with breaking the NAZI’s “unbreakable” Enigma Code. While part of the highly secretive “Hut 8” team, he built an electromechanical machine for speeding up deciphering messages and ultimately breaking the code. Historians have estimated, Alan Turing shortened the war in Europe by two years and saved upwards of 14 million lives in the process.
His contributions to stopping NAZI Germany remained a classified government secret for over 50 years.
Post WW II, Turing held high-ranking positions in the mathematics departments, computer design laboratories and in 1950 he was the first to address artificial intelligence in his paper, “Computing machinery and intelligence,” which proposed an experiment to create an intelligence design standard, now known as the “Turing Test.”
In 1952, he was arrested under Britain’s “gross indecency” law for being a homosexual. When faced with imprisonment, he chose probation and chemical castration in order to keep working on his computing machine.
He was found dead on June 7, 1954 of an apparent suicide. He was 42 years old
In 2013 Alan Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon by Queen Elizabeth II for his unprecedented achievements.
I’m afraid that the following syllogism may be used by some in the future.
Turing believes machines think
Turing lies with men
Therefore, machines do not think
Yours in distress,
(main image by artist Andy Potts)