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Alan Turing’s Earthshaking Philosophical Insight

Being the curator of the Alan Turing Year exhibition at the Jerusalem Science Museum, I was invited to sit on a panel dedicated to Turing’s legacy at the ICON Science Fiction, Imagination and The Future festival in Tel Aviv. My talk there was well received, and touches on some interesting truths, so I decided to share its content here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Nathan Zeldes lecture about Alan Turing at ICON TLV 2012My Talk About Alan Turing’s Philosophical Impact

The mathematician Andrew Hodges, author of the definitive 600-page biography of Alan Turing, also wrote a short book about this British mathematician which was published in the series “The great philosophers”. And I asked myself: what is Alan Turing doing in a series about philosophers, alongside Socrates, Spinoza, and Kant? If you ask anyone what Turing had done, they’ll tell you he cracked the Nazi Enigma cipher using computing machinery. Now, that is the work of a hacker, and indeed Turing was arguably the world’s first hacker; but a hacker is not a philosopher. Or they might tell you he designed the pioneering ACE computer, but that is what Engineers and Computer Scientists do; I’ve been an Intel engineer for many years, and nobody called me a philosopher!

But Turing was definitely a philosopher, and a great one indeed...

[You can read the rest of this presentation here]


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