Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Tribute to Alan Turing

There are few people I would consider myself a fan of. The Beatles are great but it is demeaning to call myself a fan. Ditto Radiohead. I just can't see it happening. But there is one person whose fan I can easily declare myself to be.

What if I told you that someone laid the foundations for all modern computers, set the stage for artificial intelligence and also was the most important scientist in breaking the German cryptography in WWII? Doing any one of these things would surely be an accomplishment beyond the imagination of us mortals. But all three? Where do I sign up and get the t-shirt?

Unfortunately his life was not all fun and games. Convicted of having sex with a man, he was asked to choose between imprisonment and probation conditional on undergoing 'hormone therapy', which caused him several side effects including breast enlargement. As homosexuals were considered a danger for entrapment by the soviets, he was also stripped of his security clearance and therefore his ability to do the work he loved. He was found dead at the age of 42, apparently poisoned by a cyanide-laced apple.

Some say he was reenacting his favourite fairy tale, Snow White. Others say he was making a reference to the forbidden fruit. Others still, say he wanted an ambiguous way to kill himself so his mother would not believe he did. I just see the parallel with another great man who was led to suicide for the crime of being too far ahead of his own society, Socrates. Yet this being so close to our time, I cannot contain the level of ingratitude he received. The thoughts of his last moments, abandoned and disgraced, pondering his last moments touch some string deep inside me, one not commonly vulnerable in everyday life. This tragic failure of human society is so shameful that i cannot help but be filled with pessimism for this ungrateful race of ours.

This scar and thought and picture will always be with me, to what end I do not know.

1 comment:

Natalia said...

tragic indeed not only what happenned to him but that similar ingratitude and unfairness is received by so many people today and will be continue to be received in the future...