[ExI] Turing gets an apology

natasha at natasha.cc natasha at natasha.cc
Tue Sep 15 01:12:48 UTC 2009


Quoting Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com>:

> Btw, sorry we killed you:
> <http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/2998/british-prime-minister-apologises-treatment-code-breaker-alan-turing>
> Alan Turing: British PM apologises
> Monday, 14 September 2009
> by John Pickrell with AFP
> Cosmos Online
> LONDON: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a posthumous
> apology to World War II code breaker Alan Turing, who committed suicide
> after he was tried and convicted of being a homosexual.
> Turing, often hailed for his influence in modern computing, was one of
> the key figures involved in cracking Nazi German codes.
> Brown said Turing, who took his own life in 1954, had been treated
> "terribly", adding that the outcome of the conflict could have been
> quite different without the code-breaker's efforts.
> Brilliant mathematician
> "Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work
> on breaking the German Enigma codes," he wrote. "It is no exaggeration
> to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the
> Second World War could have been very different."
> You may have heard of the 'Turing test', but you may not know much
> about Turing himself. The idea behind the test is that we'll know a
> computer has achieved true intelligence when a human questioning it is
> unable to tell whether they are conversing with a machine or another
> person.
> The idea for the test was just one of Turing's many contributions to
> the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence. Perhaps his
> greatest contribution, however, was to the war effort.
> He worked as a cryptographer at the British government's Bletchley Park
> facility during World War II and contributed to cracking the codes of
> the German Enigma devices used to encrypt military communications.
> Deplorable treatment
> Some experts suggest that Turing may personally be responsible for
> having hastened the German's defeat by an entire year. That's why the
> way he was subsequently treated by the British government is so
> deplorable.
> Turing was prosecuted for gross indecency in 1952 after admitting to a
> relationship with another man. Following this, he was given chemical
> castration and his security privileges were revoked. In 1954 he took
> his own life with a poisoned apple.
> Several weeks ago, a petition was been launched [sic] in Britain asking
> the government to offer a posthumous apology for the way he was
> persecuted. The petition, created by computer scientist John
> Graham-Cumming, has now collected over 31,000 signatures, including
> evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and writer Ian McEwan.
> Graham-Cumming told the BBC he didn't expect the government to issue an
> apology, but "felt Turing was getting overlooked as being a British
> genius and that there was a blind spot in the public eye about an
> important man."
> An official British government apology was not possible because Turing
> has no known surviving family, the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph newspaper
> reported. However Brown was able to offer an informal apology in that
> newspaper. Writing in the paper, Brown said: "On behalf of the British
> government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work, I am
> very proud to say: we're sorry. You deserved so much better."
> "Debt of gratitude"
> "The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying,
> therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely," he continued. "His
> sentence - and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison
> - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones.
> He took his own life just two years later."
> "It was one of the worst individual injustices of our time," wrote one
> Daily Telegraph blogger. "This is about humanity acknowledging a
> grievous wrong to an entire body of people whose lives and liberties
> were diminished by ignorance and prejudice."
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