Archive for September, 2009

Turing’s Last Syllogism

September 11, 2009

It is not often that computer scientists trouble the front pages, but today’s news of an apology by the PM for Alan Turing is long overdue. Much of what we take utterly for granted when sat in front of our PCs can be traced back to his work in the 1940s. The news prompted me to dust down my old copy of David Leavitt’s biography of Turing (“The Man Who Knew Too Much”). In one of his last letters to a friend he tells of his forthcoming prosecution for “sexual offences with a young man” and his disappointment following a lacklustre performance in a BBC radio broadcast. He concludes the letter with: “I’m rather afraid that the following syllogism may be used by some in the future:

Turing believes machines think
Turing lies with men
Therefore machines do not think.”

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