Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A toast to Alan Turing

     Alan Turing (1912-1954) committed suicide at the age of 42. He was brilliant, arguably the best computer scientist of the twentieth century.  He is perhaps most famous for his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during WWII; but he also made enormous significant contributions to the emerging fields of artificial intelligence and computing. And Alan Turing was gay. 
     More prose details will follow -- but first a poem for Turing by UK poet Matt Harvey

     Alan Turing     by Matt Harvey

     here’s a toast to Alan Turing
     born in harsher, darker times
     who thought outside the container
     and loved outside the lines
     and so the code-breaker was broken
     and we’re sorry
     yes now the s-word has been spoken
     the official conscience woken
     -- very carefully scripted but at least it’s not encrypted --
     and the story does suggest
     a part 2 to the Turing Test:
     1. can machines behave like humans?
     2. can we?

I found Harvey's poem online here.  An article concerning apologies to Turing appears here.

During 2012, the centenary of his birth, mathematics and computer science organizations around the world are acknowledging and publicizing his work.  For example, a Turing Centenary Conference will be held in Manchester on June 22-25, 2012, hosted by The University in Manchester, where Turing worked in 1948-1954. It aims to celebrate the life and research of Alan Turing and to further this work by convening a group of distinguished scientists, to understand and analyze the history and development of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.
UK playwright, Snoo Wilson, examines Turing's life in a play, "Love Song of the Electric Bear "  -- available for download here.

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