Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

In This Week’s Nature, “Alan Turing at 100”

February 23rd, 2012 / in resources / by Erwin Gianchandani

Alan Turing at 100 [image courtesy Nature].Today’s issue of Nature is dedicated to Alan Turing — and the Turing Centenary:

Alan Turing, born a century ago this year, is best known for his wartime code-breaking and for inventing the ‘Turing machine’ — the concept at the heart of every computer today. But his legacy extends much further: he founded the field of artificial intelligence, proposed a theory of biological pattern formation and speculated about the limits of computation in physics. In this collection of features and opinion pieces, Nature celebrates the mind that, in a handful of papers over a tragically short lifetime, shaped many of the hottest fields in science today.

As the journal’s editorial board writes in its overview piece (following the link):

The scope of Turing’s achievements is extraordinary. Mathematicians will honour the man who cracked David Hilbert’s Entscheidungsproblem or ‘decision problem’, and cryptographers and historians will remember him as the man who broke Nazi Germany’s Enigma code and helped to shorten the Second World War. Engineers will hail the founder of the digital age and artificial intelligence. Biologists will pay homage to the theoretician of morphogenesis, and physicists will raise a glass to the pioneer of nonlinear dynamics. Philosophers, meanwhile, are likely to continue to frown over his one-liners on the limits of reason and intuition: “If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent,” he said in a 1947 talk to the London Mathematical Society.


Turing demonstrated a terrific ability to combine first-hand experimentation, keen observation, rigorous theory and practical application. His multidisciplinary approach alone makes him of interest to this journal, yet questions still arise on whether the best papers in pure mathematics, computer science and artificial intelligence should be published in Nature. We certainly think so.


So, too, do the researchers invited to decode Turing’s legacy in a series of Comment articles… They are thought-provoking pieces in their own right, but, more importantly, we hope that they will entice readers to seek out Turing’s original work (see, for example, B. J. Copeland (ed.) The Essential Turing; Clarendon,2004). His papers are models of accessibility and clarity, despite their extreme conceptual depth and intellectual rigour. Even his throwaway comments — about symmetry in physics versus biology, randomness in intelligence, learning in unorganized machines, or emotions in extrasensory perception, for example — are gems…


What could 2012, the Alan Turing year, be named? Nature suggests ‘The Year of Intelligence’. Of the finest types of intelligence — human, artificial and military — Turing is perhaps the only person to have made a world-changing contribution to all three. Use this special issue, and the rest of 2012, to discover and make up your own mind about this extraordinary man.

Check out the Turing-related articles from today’s issue in a special online section of Nature.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

In This Week’s <em>Nature</em>, “Alan Turing at 100”

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