The Cambridge University mathematician laid the foundation for the invention of software. As part of its anniversary celebration, BusinessWeek is presenting a series of weekly profiles for the greatest innovators of the past 75 years. Some made their mark in science or technology; others in management, finance, marketing, or government. In late September, 2004, BusinessWeek will publish a special commemorative issue on Innovation. Elsewhere, there is also a special article for Turing.
Alan Turing: Thinking Up Computers
2004-05-11 Geek stuff 24 Comments
I believe that it is important that Alan Turing committed suicide after having his life ruined by being revealed as a homosexual. It is was a great loss to computer science and how much more he could have accomplished we’ll never know. I think it really shows how harmful ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination are when you look at a case like this.
I think it’s sad too Pinko. Every time Turing crosses my mind it’s make me real angry,I try to turn it into action instead though.
He did more than most people to nail the nazis and just got procecuted and humiliated of those bloody english authoroties.
He took his life 42 years old.
This is what you get from popular press thinking it knows something about the history of computing. This is the more correct view from slashdot:
Nice try, but Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage are recognised as the inventors of modern computing and programming. I suggest reading a bit about the architecture of the analytical, difference and related “engines” that he designed: they should remarkable similarity to a von neumann / harvard architecture (i.e. central processing units, memory banks, ALUs, etc).
Not to undervalue Alan Turing’s contribution though, but he was really breaking more substantial ground in the theory of computability; which really transcends software, hardware, and the trivial implementation details.
Alan Turing actually fits alongside Newton and Eistein and those others who developed great universal insights.
“In 1935 a course by the Cambridge mathematician M. H. A. (Max) Newman introduced Alan Turing to the frontier of research in mathematical logic”
The Z1 was built from ’36 to 38 and im sure Zuse needed more than one year to come up with the Plans for this 40000-parts beast.
And if I’m not istaken the allies got hold of one of the enigmas in a post office (waiting for being shiped), disassambled it, documentet everything and reassambled it so the nazis wouldn’t notice.
After that they just built their own enigma from the documentation they had. (thats what I’ve learned about the Enigma)
Could anyone tell me what Turing did exactly, the links in the article don’t realy say anithing besides how great Turing was.
(please correct me if I’m spreading FUD, because history is not one of the topics I’m good in)
Here you’ll find a lot about Turing and many other great mathematicians
Whatever else he may have accomplished, Alan Turing’s “Turing Test” is nonsense. Essentially what he argued was “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, and you are fooled into thinking it’s a duck, it’s duck.” I have a great photo of a truly awe-inspring sunset. If I put it in a frame in a dark room and sit close enough I can believe I am looking through a window at the actual sunset at Papeete. But, no matter how good it looks and no matter how completely it fools me, it’s a photo.
To argue that fooling someone into thinking a fake is the same as the real thing is so laughable I’m really astounded that someone with the smarts of Alan Turing actually thought this. It’s philosophically infantile. The only thing the “Turing Test” can ever demonstrate is that we are sometimes fooled by appearances.
He was forced to take hormones!!
I wonder why he commited suicide after he was “cured”.
— “But, no matter how good it looks and no matter how completely it fools me, it’s a photo.”
Is it? Prove that. And remember, you are completely fooled. You believe you are seeing a sunset through the window.
what is a Turing Machine?
Essentially what he argued was “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, and you are fooled into thinking it’s a duck, it’s duck.”
What he argued was that if a machine can behave in ways indistinguishable from a human being under intense interrogation, we should seriously consider the possibility that the machine is thinking. He never argued that the machine would be a human (to follow your analogy) and indeed he spends 2/3rds of the paper (“Computing Machinery and Intelligence”) discussing the objections to the initiation game, including the possibility that the machine could fool the interrogator without actually thinking.
But, no matter how good it looks and no matter how completely it fools me, it’s a photo.
Then it fails the imitation game. The whole point of the game is to convince the interrogator that the machine is thinking. If he isn’t convinced, the machine loses. If your photo doesn’t convince you that it’s a sunset, it loses.
Realistically, the photo is always going to lose the game. Real sunsets produce light and heat and are visible from many locations. In order to imitate a sunset, the photo would have to reproduce all the properties of the sunset that people use to determine it is, in fact, a sunset. Fooling one person, one time, in unusual circumstances isn’t sufficient.
You’re still missing the point.
Fooling me into thinking something is other than it is, or fooling everybody, doesn’t make it so. A sow’s ear is still a sow’s ear even if I am totally convinced it’s a silk purse.
Something isn’t because I think it to be, it is what it is whatever I think about it. The Turing Test is based on the fallacy that intelligence is a direct result of complexity, that if we can create a computer program so complex that it can fool us into thinking that it possesses inherent intelligence, that it then does possess intelligence.
It’s a specious argument.
— “A sow’s ear is still a sow’s ear even if I am totally convinced it’s a silk purse.”
What if it were made of silk and was sewn into a purse, and otherwise looked and worked so much like a silk purse that you could not tell the difference in any way?
— “The Turing Test is based on the fallacy that intelligence is a direct result of complexity, that if we can create a computer program so complex that it can fool us into thinking that it possesses inherent intelligence, that it then does possess intelligence.”
Isn’t that what our brains do? Who says intelligence is anything more then highly complex computation?
Useless tidbit: There’s also a programming language named after him: http://www.holtsoft.com/turing/
Never thought a situation would come up to mention that.
I didn’t even know what the Turing Test was, so if someone wants an overview of it, see
1. He was gay, so let’s all talk about that, because when a person is gay, that’s the only thing you need to know about him.
2. “Alan Turing, the Inventor of Software” Ada Lovelace!!!
Michael, your objection to the Turing test is ripped from Daniel Dennett. So there is no need to keep on about it in the hope we’ll be impressed with you genius. Read Turing’s original paper and be impressed with his – even if you see flaws in his argument.
Xerces: pure historical relativism. Those bloody english authoroties (curiously British authorities are always English when they are being bloody) were, by the standards of the time, trying to be tolerant (however low those standards appear today). Turing was not imprisoned but offered medical treatment instead. That was as liberal as the UK law allowed in 1952. Swedish law prosecuted thousand for the same activity and even after liberalization, social attitudes where little different. http://www.swedeninfo.org/viewpoint19.PDF.
So, appart from exhibiting your dislike of English people, your point is?
Nkour: Turing was not “forced” to take hormones. He broke the law, was offered medication an alternative to prison, and chose to take it. No an easy choice I’m sure, but he was hardly strapped to a chair and forced to grow breasts.
Captain Pinko: whist you believe that it is important that Alan Turing committed suicide after having his life ruined by being revealed as a homosexual., nobody else does.
Everyone who knew Turing, knew he was a homosexual. Turing was always “out”. His mother knew, all his colleagues knew. Without doubt the military knew. What we don’t know is why he apparently took his life over 2 years later in a bizare echo of Walt Disney’s “Snow White”.
It may well have been more to do with his lack of recognition and direction after the war together with loosing his security clearance – which, as a man with a head full of state secrets in the middle of the cold war had as much to do with a disregard for security and inappropriate foreign trips, as with his sex offense conviction.
Since he isn’t here to tell us, and hence we don’t know, it’s a slur to say his life war ruined so he took the cowards way out. It didn’t happen like that and it accords him no honour to paint him as a gay martyr when he clearly wasn’t.
Smashit: What has Konrad Zuse got to do with it? Nobody is claiming Turing built a computer before Zuse. His achievements are in the mathematical arena. Take a look at http://www.turing.org.uk or read Hodges’ bio.
Anonymous: IBM? Huh?
Jack: A sane comment. Thank you.
Fooling me into thinking something is other than it is, or fooling everybody, doesn’t make it so.
Stop and think for a while about what would make it so. If you find a good definition, please let the world know, because it’s not as easy as it seems.
Can you prove to me that you are, in fact, human?
Turings “game” has a deeper philosophical basis than you’d think at first glance.
… no US citizens. So their work is ignored by US schools, universities, magazines, …
BTW, Microsoft invented the client server paradigma 🙂
>>Can you prove to me that you are, in fact, human?
Actually, I’m not, I’m a C program, and I can’t prove that either. The test conditions of the Turing Test prevent you from know with certainty what I am. You can only conjecture. However, face to face, where other more precise metrics can be applied, would quickly resolve the truth of what I am. So the test conditions are artificially contrived to insure a certain degree of uncertainty.
>> Could anyone tell me what Turing did exactly <<
Well…. although Turing built upon Godel’s work, in some ways it was Turing who destroyed HIlbert’s theorizing, not Godel – Turing’s work in a sense is arguably more fundemental than Godel’s – he not only got Godel’s result as a corollary but he also showed that there could be *no decision procedure* – seriously deep………… – and what a lovely insight – lets all apply Cantor’s diagonal procedure to the computable real numbers
From Rodrigos Limk:
“In 1936 he published On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem. It is in this paper that Turing introduced an abstract machine, now called a “Turing machine”, which moved from one state to another using a precise finite set of rules (given by a finite table) and depending on a single symbol it read from a tape.”
So he published his theory in the same year as Zuse started to build his Z1 (planing must have started at least one year before).
Again my question: What’s so great about Turing?
Its about “The Cambridge University mathematician laid the foundation for the invention of software”
Just can’t see what he did for the invention of software…