‘The Imitation Game’ is an exploration of some of the ground-breaking computational reasoning developed by Alan Turing, a WW2 British cryptologist.
In Part Three of this four part series, I discussed some of the many secrets exposed by the film and the various tragedies that arose from the keeping of such secrets. In this part, I will bring my discussion of the film and Alan Turning to a close.
Alan Turing was a pioneer in computational logic and related fields which laid the foundations of modern computing and theorising concerning Artificial Intelligence. Unfortunately his early death (at age 41), the classified nature of his war-time work and the vilification of his personal reputation by his criminal prosecution served to undermine his place in the foundations of computer science.
I will briefly discuss several of his achievements – his use of statistical methods to support code breaking, the Turing machine and the Turing Test.
During his early work at Bletchley Park that led to his cryptanalytic machine, Turing wrote two theoretical papers to explore his reasoning concerning the use of statistical methods to break encryption codes (otherwise refer to Part 3 of this Blog): ‘Report on the applications of probability to cryptography’ and ‘Paper on statistics of repetitions’. Both papers were deemed classified by the British government and not released until April 2012 – seventy years later – pointing to the continuing importance of Turing’s reasoning for cryptology.
For the history of computing, I will also make reference to the Turing machine and the Turing test.
Turing created the ‘Turing Machine’ in 1936 to test the logical limits of computational logic. Through the machine, he demonstrated that a machine could logically process any concept if it could be represented as an algorithm. In other words, a computer can logically only process information using definable rules. Any information that could not be defined by rules, therefore, was outside the scope of a computer.
The scope of his work also included Artificial Intelligence with the development of the ‘Turning Test’, based on his post-war work. Turing posed the question ‘Can machines think?’ which he argued could be determined by posing a set of questions to a computer. If the response resembled or otherwise was indistinguishable from responses that a human being would exhibit, then the computer can be deemed to be able to ‘think’. It is notable that while Turing used a system of logical rules to determine whether a computer’s reasoning ability was comparable to a human being, he did not attempt to evaluate human reasoning – only whether a computer’s reasoning was indistinguishable from that a human being would exhibit.
In practice, the ‘Turing Test’ took different forms even in Turing’s life-time. The film’s name, ‘The Imitation Game’, takes its name from a parlour game based on his theories – in which a man and a woman would each respond to a set of questions using written answers that they think the other would give, in order for an audience in another room to determine which person was the actual man and which was the actual woman.
The film portrays the degradation and the waste of a great man and a great intellect. The human race was lessened by its inability to accept Alan Turing as a person.
Photo Copyright Details:
|Title: The_Imitation_Game_poster Description: This is a poster for The Imitation Game. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. Date: not dated Source: Wikipedia Commons The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. However, this low resolution image is reproduced with the intention of providing a commentary on the film.|