Sunday 23 November 2014

Alan Turing: The Imagination Game

“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine.” Recurrent quote in The Imitation Game.
Father and victim
In Sackville Park, Manchester sits a statue with a plaque at its feet, one line, less prominent but quite important, "Victim of prejudice." That was a bygone age where the other sexuality was criminalised and with it came the law, heavy and merciless in its application.
Yet, to this man we owe more than we can ever fully appreciate him for. It was his genius that gave birth to the computer.
I type away literally oblivious of the real history of computing that Hollywood has attempted to serve us in film, one that opened in cinema theatres just over a week ago.
Of the film
Interest and engagement have gotten me have viewing The Imitation Game twice already, it is the story of Alan Turing and his work in breaking the encryption of the German Nazi Enigma machine.
One cannot say that the depiction in film is entirely true to the facts especially in the part where Alan Turing might well have been slandered in the film by being accused of being a spy.
The film itself is worth watching, it is interesting, engaging and somewhat plays around the youth, the genius, the sexuality, the persecution and the prosecution of the man, the man who died on the 7th of June 1954.
There is much acknowledgement of his seminal work, honours that have come posthumously and the royal pardon granted from 2013. [Computing Machinery and Intelligence – Turing, A. M. (1950)]
My crazy
This is not a film review, I somehow cannot help myself when I watch films, and I have to find something of the essence of life in the drama and the action.
I liked the line, "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things no one can imagine," which passed from Christopher Morcom to Alan Turing to Joan Clarke and back to Alan Turing in the film.
However, the other bits that got me thinking in my usual penchant for over-analysing plots and plays are some of these things.
How crossword puzzles were used as a means to interview personnel for code-breaking, the conventional wisdom was to use linguists to decipher German code, Alan Turing however saw these as puzzles.
And so …
Somehow, what Alan Turing did was to eliminate chance from solving logical problems, at least that is one perspective to things.
Once the Enigma code was broken, the greater task was keeping it a secret and consequently, when it comes to tough decisions, who makes them and what goes into it? That was what Ultra was about and apparently that is why the allies won WWII.
That is why the Imitation Game was more like the Imagination Game for me, what he imagined became the reality of the world of computational power at the fingertips of mankind today. Alan Turing was an exceptionally gifted man, his homosexuality should never have taken such a genius away from us.
Other readings

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