We can only see

A new agile home
May 1, 2012
Amazing – Grace Murray Hopper 1906 – 1992
September 21, 2012
Show all

We can only see

Alan Turing by Marie Sann

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done

Alan Mathison Turing 1912-1954

This month, there is only one important event for all of those who work with computers in one way or another:
the hundredth anniversary of Alan Turing’s birth on 23rd June.

Beyond the world of Facebook IPOs and the hunt for “the next big thing”, this date brings us back to the beginnings of our guild and the basic ideas behind our “third industrial revolution”.

  1. It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence. [On Computable Numbers, With an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem]
  2. We may hope that machines will eventually compete with men in all purely intellectual fields. [Computing Machinery and Intelligence]

The former is the basis for and the latter is, to this day, one of the most important driving forces of our digital revolution – regardless of whether we are talking with Siri about the weather or a computer plays “Jeopardy”. Like every revolution, this one has many founding fathers, but Turing’s contribution was a decisive catalyst – if not the most decisive of all.

When Turing put that sentence quoted in the title at the end of his article Computing Machinery and Intelligence, he still had four years left to live.

On account of his homosexuality, which was still punishable by law at that time, he was sentenced to chemical castration – as an alternative to a prison sentence – and he died of cyanide poisoning in 1954, two weeks before his 42nd birthday.

His death was officially recorded as a suicide. In Turing’s anniversary year there are countless opportunities to honour the achievements of Alan Turing. We do so here and recommend that you pay a visit to the exhibition on Heinz Nixdorf Forum and personally mention the petition for a posthumous pardon for Turing, which was once again rejected by the British government only at the start of this year.

Comments are closed.