Review: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma

Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma by David Boyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma
Alan Mathison Turing.
Mathematician, philosopher, codebreaker, a founder of computer science, and the father of Artificial Intelligence, Turing was one of the most original thinkers of the last century – and the man whose work helped create the computer-driven world we now inhabit.
But he was also an enigmatic figure, deeply reticent yet also strikingly naïve. Turing’s openness about his homosexuality at a time when it was an imprisonable offense ultimately led to his untimely lo death at the age of only forty-one.

A short but interesting and thought provoking book.

I was aware that Alan Turing was instrumental in helping the allies breaking the German enigma code during the war and that he was prosecuted for homosexual acts, said prosecution probably leading to his suicide.

I was also aware of the ‘Turing Test’ as a measure of a machine’s capacity to ‘think’. I had not put two and two together to realise it was the same man.

The book contained many interesting facts of which I was not previously aware but being so short, did not explore them in the detail that I would have liked.

For example, I knew the Victorian, Charles Babbage was one of the first to conceptualise the computer, but not that he was interested in code breaking, although logically that does follow.

I certainly did not know that Turing, and other mathematicians, were fascinated by Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Why?

It seems highly ironic to me that a man obsessed with whether machines could think was pushed to suicide by the blind, unthinking prejudice of humans who mostly, it seems to me, spend very little time thinking.

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