Sunday, October 23, 2022

Review of "Alan Turing: His Work and Impact," by S. Barry Cooper and Jan van Leeuwen

 Review of

 Alan Turing: His Work and Impact, by S. Barry Cooper and Jan van Leeuwen ISBN 9780123869807

 Five out of five stars

 Turing’s impact was considerable

  Although he only lived 41 years, Alan Turing had a significant effect on the world. Through his work in decoding the German military message in World War II, he arguably did more to keep Great Britain from losing the war in the dark time after the withdrawal at Dunkirk than any person other than Winston Churchill. His development of the simple Turing Machine not only solved one of the famous Hilbert problems; it put forward a model for computers that mimics the power of the fastest supercomputers.

 This thick volume is a collection of his most significant papers along with commentary by people that appreciated and furthered his ideas. What will astound even the people that know the work of Turing is the breadth of his interests and depth of his competence. Some of his writings are classic works in machine game playing, biology and artificial intelligence that can still be used to educate. As early as the late 1940’s Turing was putting forward serious ideas about the future of computing, even though at the time computers were relatively incapable hulks. Although his Turing test for artificial intelligence is now not considered proof positive of machine intelligence, there is no question that any intelligent machine would have to be able to pass it.

 In some ways a person that thought decades ahead of his time, Alan Turing died much too young. Whenever the topic is the social cost of prejudice, there is no stronger argument against it than citing the case of Turing, a man that was most likely hounded to suicide for his being gay at a time when it was a criminal offense. If you doubt that, simply scan the subject lines in the table of contents of this book.

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