This blog post takes the life of Alan Turing into consideration and analyzes the life of Alan Turing in terms of being an outsider. The innovator of computer science and artificial intelligence, Alan Turing, is subject to this biography essay.
The need of men to be together with others and the instinct, that each person has, to live as a community creates the concept of society. Throughout history, human beings have always been living in societies. To be able to live in peace and compliant, societies set up some common rules, ideas and expect each individual to act accordingly. Even though each society has this kind of shared rules to maintain peace and security there have always been people who disobey the rules and try to live with their own rules or without any rule. Basically, these people who deviate from any mainstream in society are called “the outsiders”. The concept of outsider has different meanings; however, throughout this research paper, the outsider will be used to describe people who have three main characteristics such as deviance from any mainstream in any area in society, being a tragic hero and contributing society or changing any mainstream.
Alan Turing as an Outsider
The example of outsider which this research paper focuses is a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist: Alan Mathison Turing. Alan Turing, “who is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence,”(Homer and Selman, 2001, p.35). is an outsider due to his deviant ideas from the mainstream in technology such as, his test named “the Turing test”, the idea of “Turing machine”, and his idea of “a machine could think”. Alan Turing’s deviances and he, being a tragic hero due to mostly because of sexual choice and his contributions to the society by saving thousands of lifes and to computer science in building up a base for the digital computers make Alan Turing an outsider.
In the first instance, before probing about the life of Alan Turing and his studies, there are some significant concepts that must be explained to clear the meaning and the use of these concepts throughout the research paper. These main concepts are basicly the concepts of “outsider”, “tragic hero”, “mainstream/inertia” and “innovation”. As previously stated, an outsider is a tragic hero who deviates from the society or any mainstream in society; yet, his deviance helps his/her to contribute to society or change any mainstream in society. This brings us to the need of explanation of the concept of tragic hero and mainstream or inertia in society. Having big difficulties throughout the life even because of the deviance he/she has and overcoming these difficulties successfully makes one a tragic hero. And, as mentioned above, each society sets some set of rules and builds up some characteristics. These rules which are mainly accepted by the vast majority of society are basically called “inertia”. Inertia creates the stability and stability creates packages in society “finally packages exert the hegemony that contains the inertial force” (Becker, 1995, p.304). When this stability and the inertial force are considered, this clears the idea that “stability prevents the innovation which is possible and occurs whenever people are willing to go to the trouble of doing things the hard way” (Becker, 1995, p.301). Here, innovation is an important concept to be explained. Innovation basically is the development of new solutions, ideas which meet new requirements in any area. Throughout the research paper, innovation in technology will often be used.
Alan Turing and Computer Science
Alan Mathison Turing is an English code breaker, mathematician, and computing pioneer who contributed to society greatly. Turing was born in London, in 1912. Starting from his childhood, he has always been spotted due to his intelligence and ability to mathematics and physics at school. In his early youth, when he was 16, he was attracted by his friend Christopher Marcom (Hodges, 1995). In 1930, “sudden death of Christopher Morcom shattered Turing’s religious faith. He became an atheist and adopted the conviction that all phenomena, including the workings of the human brain, must be materialistic” (Gray, 1999, p.2). This idea inspired him to work on the principles of how brain works. After the graduation from King’s college, Alan Turing thought of a mechanical machine which does not exists (imaginary) that can do any computation that any man can do. This was the first step to the Turing Machine. After some time, Alan Turing was recruited for the code breaking team for deciphering the code of “The Enigma Machine” which is the machine that is used to encrypt the messages among the World War II. In 1939, in September, within a week of arriving Bletchley Park, Alan Turing designed an electromechanical machine that could help enigma effectively (Copeland, 2006, p.378). When the time shows 1952, Alan Turing is found to be guilty of being a homosexual. At this time in United Kingdom, homosexuality was illegal. Thus, Alan Turing is left to choose either being sentenced to prison or accepting the treatment of chemical castration. Alan Turing chooses the chemical castration treatment and for two years, until he is dead in 1954, he is being injected with female hormone (estrogen). In 1954, two weeks before his birthday, Alan Turing is found to be poisoned by cyanide. There was a half-eaten apple with cyanide.
At the time of 1910s-1930s there is no concept of computer machines. “On June 23, 1912, a computer was not a thing—it was a person. Computers, most of whom were women, were hired to perform repetitive calculations for hours on end” (Garfinkel, 2012, p.75). At Alan Turing’s time, in the mainstream of the technology, there was no computer which really computes things. However, the deviant idea of Alan Turing which suggests that any computation that can be done by a man is also can be done by a machine which separates the problem into smaller steps and solve each of them separately. Another deviant idea of Alan Turing in the mainstream of technology can be the idea of artificial intelligence. Alan Turing supports the idea that, “a computer is just like a children.” As a child can learn and apply what s/he has learned, a computer can be able to do the same thing.
Alan Turing and Sexual Choices
Beside Alan Turing’s deviances from the mainstream of technology, Turing is a tragic hero. His sexual choice has always been an obstacle for Alan Turing. Even though many people might applause the brilliant ideas of Alan Turing; due to his sexual choice, his ideas were being rejected. Before the reveal of Alan Turing’s sexual choice in 1930, Alan Turing was recruited by NPL (National Physical Laboratory). After working about six months, in NPL, reveal of his homosexuality caused the removal of his security clearance. Besides all, since homosexuality was illegal in United Kingdom at those times, he was judged and Alan Turing was made to choose either being in prison, or undergoing hormonal treatment; and Alan Turing decides to undergo hormonal treatment. Apart from his sexual choice, there is another point which makes Turing a tragic hero. Turing’s father worked in Indian Civil Service so his parents were often abroad. Thus, Turing lived a childhood like “a life of a near-orphan”. Everybody knows the importance of parents in the psychological and sociological development of the children. While Alan Turing’s parents were away from them, children were missed in a part that will not be filled up easily.
The conditions to be considered as an outsider were mentioned above. First two were having deviances from the mainstream in an area and being tragic hero. Up to this point, these two features of Alan Turing were examined; now, it is time for Alan Turing’s change in the mainstream of any area or contributions to society. Deciphering the code of the Enigma Machine is considered to be the most important contribution to whole humanity. Deciphering this code helps the World War II to shorten and so, the number of deaths due to World War II decreases. Apart from this, as previously stated, Alan Turing is considered to be the founder of computer science and the artificial intelligence. By his ideas, Alan Turing was able to change the concept of “computer” in the mainstream in a society.
To conclude, Alan Mathison Turing is an outsider due to his deviant ideas from the mainstream in technology such as, his test named “the Turing test”, the idea of “Turing machine”, and his idea of “a machine could think”. Alan Turing’s deviances and he, being a tragic hero due to mostly because of sexual choice and his contributions to the society by saving thousands of lifes and to computer science in building up a base for the digital computers make Alan Turing an outsider.
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