ALAN MATHISON TURING OBE, FRS was born on this date (d: 1954); An English mathematician, logician and cryptographer. Turing is considered to be the father of modern computer science. Turing provided an influential formalization of the concept of the algorithm and computation with “the Turing machine,” formulating the now widely accepted “Turing” version of the Churq-Turing thesis, namely that any practical computing model has either the equivalent or a subset of the capabilities of a Turing machine.
With the Turing Test, he made a significant and characteristically provocative contribution to the debate regarding artificial intelligence: whether it will ever be possible to say that a machine is conscious and can think.
The “standard interpretation” of the Turing Test, in which player C, the interrogator, is given the task of trying to determine which player – A or B – is a computer and which is a human. The interrogator is limited to using the responses to written questions to make the determination.
He later worked at the National Physical Laboratory, creating one of the first designs for a stored-program computer, although it was never actually built. In 1948 he moved to the University of Manchester to work on the Manchester Mark I, then emerging as one of the world’s earliest true computers.
During WWII Turing worked at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code-breaking center, and was for a time head of Hut 8, the section responsible for German naval crypto-analysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers, including the method of the “bombe,” an electromagnetic machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine.
The 2014 film, The Imitation Game is Turing’s story. The title refers to Turing’s proposed test of the same name, which he discussed in his 1950 paper on artificial intelligence entitled “Computing Machinery.” In 1952, Turing was convicted of “acts of gross indecency” after admitting to a sexual relationship with a man in Manchester. He was placed on probation and required to undergo estrogen therapy to achieve temporary chemical castration. The treatment caused him great anxiety and physical pain. An avid runner, he was no longer able to enjoy this exercise.
Turing died after eating an apple laced with cyanide in 1954. His death was ruled a suicide, but this was controversial and many think he may have been murdered to silence him.