Alan Turning: A Sad Mystery

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Alan Turning: A Sad Mystery

“The original question, ‘Can machines think?’ I believe to be too meaningless to deserve

discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted…. The popular view that scientists proceed inexorably from well-established fact to well-established fact, never being influenced by any improved conjecture, is quite mistaken. Provided it is made clear which are proved facts and which are conjectures, no harm can result. Conjectures are of great importance since they suggest useful lines of research” (Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”)

In his thorough biography of Alan Turing, Alan Turing:The Enigma, Andrew Hodges

described the self-destruction of HAL in 2001 A Space Odyssey in the following way:“He was only aware of the conflict that was slowly destroying his integrity – the conflict between truth, and concealment of truth” (Hodges, 533). Apparently the authors of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick had based their picture of HAL on ideas developed by Alan Turing, the brilliant British mathematician, scientist, cryptographer and philosopher who committed suicide on June 7, 1954. (Hodges, 533).

Mr. Turing had a remarkable career from the 1930’s into the early 1950’s. He studied

math initially at Cambridge, worked for a time at Princeton and spent most of World War II at Bletchley Park where he and his colleagues eventually solved the Enigma cipher used by the Germans to secure their U-boat strikes against Allied shipping lanes during the height of the European war. After the war, he returned to academic life ...

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...or of much of the early thought that has evolved into today’s computer science will

continue to affect us. It is rather daunting to envision what more he could have given us when considering the legacy of his work. Perhaps Clark and Kubrick also had Turing the man in mind when they devised what it would take to cause HAL to self-destruct

Works Cited

Hodges, Andrew. “The Alan Turing Home Page.” last updated 24 October 1998., 1999).

Hodges, Andrew. Alan Turing:The Enigma. New York:Simon and Schuster, 1983.

Hodges, Andrew. “Alan Turing:a natural philosopher.” 1997.

ex6.html (February, 1999).

Turing, Alan. “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” 1950.

comm115/writing-define-computing/Computing-machinery.html (February, 1999).

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