In a seminal 1950 article on artificial intelligence, British scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954) asks: Can a machine think?
In the text, Turing suggests a game in which a person and a computer answer questions from another person who would be a kind of judge. In the end, the judge has to use the answers to decide who is the computer and who is the person. In this game of simulation, the computer can win if it manages to confuse people.
Over 70 years after the work was published, interaction with artificial intelligence is omnipresent: We shop, move around the city and have fun with the help of algorithms that adapt the world for us. And the questions that Turing asked during his short career were critical to enabling the computer world to conquer the world.
In the next few days, new bills will begin to circulate in the UK. Turing’s photo and notes on his legacy are printed on the 50-pound notes. The tributes also seek to somehow repair the state’s treatment of the scientist as a homosexual, a condition that was illegal in England until 1967.
Turing was born in England on June 23, 1912 – his 109th birthday was celebrated on Wednesday (23). In 1931 he began his studies at King’s College, Cambridge.
One of his first great achievements in the field of computers is described in a 1936 scientific treatise in which he introduced the Turing machine, a theoretical computational model that contributed to the foundations of computing as we know it today.
The scientist is best known for his contributions to World War II (1939-1945). One of the main obstacles England faced in the clashes against Nazi Germany was the Enigma machine, which was used to encrypt the messages containing the military instructions.
Radio messages were easily picked up and recognized, but messages in codes created by Enigma were virtually impenetrable.
Turing worked with other professionals at Bletchley Park, then a center devoted to deciphering war news. There, the scientist improved the techniques that were already used to decrypt the codes generated by Enigma, and also developed more modern ways to deal with encrypted messages.
“His most famous achievement was the design of the bomb machine that could crack codes faster than a human using techniques developed by Turing,” says the Bletchley Park website.
In 1952, however, the story is drastically reversed. Turing and a man with whom the scientist was intimate, Arnold Murray, are convicted of gross indecency as a result of their homosexual relationship.
Between prison and hormone treatment, Turing chose the second – estrogen doses, which act as a form of chemical castration. In addition, the scientist lost his job and no longer had access to the confidential information he was working with.
The scientist was found dead in his home in 1954 and there are at least two theories about his death.
In the first, the most widely used today, Turing would have been depressed about his judgment and would have committed suicide using cyanide. In the other version, the poisoning would have happened accidentally using a device the scientist kept at home.
In 2013, Turing received the British royal pardon, the culmination of a series of actions aimed at clearing the scientist’s name.
In addition to several books, her story is told in the film “The Imitation Game” (2014), which was awarded the Oscar for best adapted screenplay.