Friday, September 11, 2009

PostHeaderIcon Gordon Brown: I'm proud to say sorry to a real war hero

It's fifty-five years late, but a welcome posthumous recognition of his humanity. Alan Turing was a gay man who saved the world from the madness of the Third Reich by breaking the Enigma Code... he was the father of modern computing and laid the groundwork for today's breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. The "Turing Test" is still the defining set of criteria that will distinguish when artificial intelligence actually matches humans.

Despite this here is what happened to him (from Wikipedia):

In January 1952 Turing picked up the 19-year-old Arnold Murray outside a cinema in Manchester. After a lunch date, Turing invited Murray to spend the weekend with him at his house, an invitation which Murray accepted although he did not show up. The pair met again in Manchester the following Monday, when Murray agreed to accompany Turing to the latter's house. A few weeks later Murray visited Turing's house again, and apparently spent the night there.

After Murray helped an accomplice to break into his house, Turing reported the crime to the police. During the investigation Turing acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray. Homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom at that time, and so both were charged with gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, the same crime that Oscar Wilde had been convicted of more than fifty years earlier.

Turing was given a choice between imprisonment or probation conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal treatment designed to reduce libido. He accepted chemical castration via oestrogen hormone injections which lasted for a year. One of the known side effects of these hormone injections was the development of breasts, known as gynecomastia, something which plagued Turing for the rest of his life. Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance, and barred him
from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for GCHQ.

The price of prejudice and hate is too high. Imagine our world today, had Turing not been hounded to an early death -- but celebrated for his genius and allowed to continue his groundbreaking work in computer science.

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