Alan Turing (1912-54)


An English Mathematician, Turing is probably most famous as the breaker of the `Enigma' code used by the Germans during WWII.

During this period he realised that the hard-wired computers he was using could potentially be redesigned to be flexible electronic computational devices.

His breakthrough was to introduce a read/write function to the machine, and he boiled down the required algorithms to make such a machine possible to five in number. This is known as the Turing Machine, and is capable of calculating Recursive functions. In effect he made a set of algorithm notated and expressed precisely enough to be used in computations.

Alan Turing



Also of interest is the `Turing Test' which is an experiential test for judging whether a machine is making an adequate simulation of the human mind. An interrogator `quizes' both a machine and a person. The machine passes if, after a period of time, the interrogator cannot distinguish between the human and the machine. He thought this would be accomplished within tens years - that is, by 1960 - but it's doubtful whether this test could yet be passed by an AI machine.

The seldom mentioned sexualised aspect of the Turing test is interesting. In the initial essay where Turing comes up with the idea of the Turing test, the object of the test is for the interogater to decide which `source' is a woman. Therefore to `pass' the test is to erase sexual difference. Is it surprising that Turing, who was later discredited by the British Government on account of his homosexuality, should configure the test this way?

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