Alan Turing

President Obama has declared June to be LGBT pride month.

In honor of that, I want to write a little bit about Alan Turing. I assume most of the readers of my blog know about him, but I’ll indulge myself anyway. Alan Turing was an epitome of the concept of “bad-ass”. How bad-ass?

Well, he invented computing. Then, because it didn’t seem like enough, he invented software and general purpose computers, then known as “universal Turing machines”. Except, then he said, “hrm, why don’t I prove some theorems on the limits of computability”, and did so.

World War II came along. The Nazis were using the Enigma encryption machine. So Alan Turing designed the algorithms, wrote the software and designed the computers to break Enigma, giving the British first-class intelligence (and by way of sneaky leaking to the Russians, the Russians as well). The Nazis lost WWII, and we in the free world got to keep our democracy.

Executive summary of Alan Turing’s life so far: he invented computers and saved democracy. I don’t know about you, but there is seldom a single day where I don’t enjoy both of these very much. Thanks, Dr. Turing!

In England, at that time, homosexuality was illegal. Turing tried “curing” it, but it didn’t work so he (likely) killed himself.

Towards the end of his life, he became interested in Chemistry. This guy, when he was interested in math, saved democracy and invented computers. Perhaps with an interest in chemistry, he would have solved the energy crisis? Ended world hunger? We will never know, because we tried to cure his homosexuality. Perhaps, if we nurtured pride in his sexual identity, the world might have been a better place.

Thank you, Mr. President.


3 Responses to Alan Turing

  1. הירנוט says:

    amazing text. worth spreading around.

    it would be a good idea to translate it to Hebrew too, maybe I’ll do that myself if I have the time.

  2. herenot says:

    BTW, I shared this on G.reader, and a US software engineer friend of mide wrote this comment:

    “Fear of losing clearance (or being harassed) over some petty crap that’s irrelevant to the job lives on in defense circles – it’s an incredible waste because, when it comes to mental work, one great person is worth tens or hundreds of average ones.

    To the people who think that’s a reasonable price to pay, remember that Alan Turing helped save your hide in WWII.”


  3. […] will be “Universal Turing Machine”. You may remember a previous post of mine about Alan Turing, one of the greatest giants on whose shoulders we have the privilege to be standing on. But I want […]

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