[ExI] turing movie

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Fri Aug 8 08:19:02 UTC 2014

Harvey Newstrom <mail at harveynewstrom.com> , 7/8/2014 11:25 PM:
I don't know how we can tell this heroic story of Turing's career in government encryption without mentioning how it came to an end.  I don't know how we celebrate this man's tremendous life giving to the British government and the Allies in fighting the Nazis without mentioning how they repaid him and treated him in return, resulting in his death.  These seem to be two sides of the same story.  Telling only one side would be telling only half the story. 

Turing's life is tricky to depict, since the more relateable heroism/betrayal part mainly makes sense in the light of profound intellectual achievements that most viewers/readers will have a hard time to understand. One could treat them as a black box and just make a gay-hero-treated-badly story, but then one would have to leave out a large chunk of motivation and internals. Leaving them in would make a rather demanding story: not impossible, but tough to do. (Has anybody ever done a good film about a mathematician's life that actually is a cohesive whole? "A Hill on the Dark Side of the Moon" left out nearly all math, for example.)
I have blogged a bit about the ethics of the UK government's attempt at pardoning him posthumously:http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/12/sui-generis-or-generic-gay-pardoning-alan-turing/http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2013/12/tis-the-season-of-pardons/What disturbs me in the above farce is the idea that *because* he was so awesome he should be pardoned (non-awesome gays do not benefit). The actual motivations of the involved people are all good, trying to express our currently more enlightened values, but the means are not very sensible and does get bad ideas into the discourse.

Any way, I now have few splinters from Shockley's lab next to the soil from Bletchley park in my computer science reliquary. Next time my computer crashes I will wave the relics over it and see if it works again.

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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