Friday, September 11, 2009

UK gives post-mortem apology to persecuted WW II hero and computer genius, Alan Turing

Prime Minister Gordon Brown today issued a formal apology on behalf of the British government for the “appalling” treatment of World War II hero Alan Turing. Turing was the mathematical, computer and encryption genius who, while working at Bletchley Park, broke the famous Enigma code of Nazi Germany.

Several years after the war’s end he was convicted of “gross indecency” for being homosexual and endured an experimental chemical castration “treatment” rather than go to prison. He committed suicide two years later in 1954 at age 41. Brown recognized Turing as "one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia.... I am very proud to say: we're sorry. You deserved so much better." As Andrew Sullivan said in his tribute this morning:
Every now and again, we should remember how brutal the persecution of homosexuals was for so long, how counter-productive, how many lives were ruined, and how a great man like Turing could be reduced to suicide by the oppression he lived with on a daily basis.

One of the great milestones of artificial intelligence—yet to be reached—is to pass the Turing Test. In this test, a person interacts blindly, but with natural language, with another person and a computer simultaneously and is unable to tell them apart. Turing first proposed such a test in 1950. To honor his many groundbreaking accomplishments in computing and artificial intelligence, the American award for achievement in computer science is named the Turing Prize.


Anonymous said...

They still haven't come close to beating the Turing Test. I just read about the lastest attempt. It'll be around for a while. David Mc

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