**Ode to Alan Turing**by Mari-Lou Rowley

Unfamiliar smells of coriander, turmeric, cinnamon

what they brought back from that dark place,

what they left you to face, alone

with only numbers,

what counted, only numbers could decide

“Whether to move to the left, move to the right, or
stay in place.”

proof or falsity,

statements of love or hate.

What tables of behaviour, symbols, squares

lights in front of eyes closed tight behind tight
fists.

“In order for an animated machine to compute the
world

you need real numbers in binary form.”

Someone has to make a decision procedure

oh oh oh one one one oh one oh one

dot oh one dot oh oh one one

Oh Cambridge prestige and diction

Oh Princeton money, Oh mock Goths,

Oh slippery climb up the tower

Oh Dot Dot Oh

One war, one woman, one Enigma

the probability of failing her, of falling

through the cracks, of cracking the code.

Hide the Queen’s medal in a toolbox. Move to the
next square.

Oh computable numbers, your subjects and predicates

their sequence of symbols, machine sung:

DADDCRDAA; DAADDRDAAA; DAAADDCCRDAAAA; DAAAADDRDA;

No general process for determining whether a given
father

is satisfactory or not.

“The behaviour of the computer at any moment is
determined

by the symbols which

**he**is observing,
and his “state of mind” at that moment.”

Certain codes and mannerisms

immediately recognizable,

the flick of wrist

inflection of voice

turn of head

colour of scarf

cut of suit.

“The state of mind of the computer

corresponds to
an m-configuration.”

M for machine, m for mother, m for man --

the room scanned

glance exchanged

meeting arranged

compatible numbers converge computably

mutable, mutual programming

a condition of functions and definitions.

“Turing believes that machines think.

Turing lies with men.

Therefore machines do not think.”

Suppose
a cog in the wheel, a

tape
in the machine, a bug

on
the wall.

Suppose
his strong hands, dark hair

thick
vowels, hard thighs.

Suppose
mutual compatible increasing continuous

satisfying
sighs.

Suppose
someone is listening.

I found Rowley's ode in the

*Journal of Humanistic Mathematics*(Volume 1, Issue 2) as part of a collection entitled "Numen

^{R}ology: A Poetic Exploration of the Lives and Work of Famous Mathematicians." Rowley's JHM collection also includes "On Diophantus

*Arithmetica*," (see 5 March posting) and "On Euclid's

*Book VII -- Elementary Number Theory: Proposition 8*." Rowley used "poetic license" when she asserted (as an end-note in the JHM publication) that the right-justified portions of text are from Turing’s 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem” published in 1937 in the

*Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society*. Some, but not all, of the quotes are in the spirit of the cited article.

An April 22 article in the

*Washington Post*describes some of the teaching-math activities in computer labs at Virginia Tech and includes a comment that, in addition to being helpful with mathematical instruction, "Computer-led lessons show promise for remedial English instruction and perhaps foreign language . . . [but] Machines will never replace humans in poetry seminars." Indeed?! This remark turns me once again to the question posed by Turing's test: can a machine behave like a human being?

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