The Triumphs and Tragedy of Alan Turing

By Keito Orii

Statue of Alan Turing in Sackville GardensWikiCommons
In the annals of human achievement, a revolutionary force emerged, defying the boundaries of possibility—artificial intelligence (AI). Journey through the realms of innovation and human ingenuity as we unearth the awe-inspiring genesis of artificial intelligence, where imagination and cutting-edge advancements converge to shape our world's future.
These first two sentences are actually written by ChatGPT,  an artificial intelligence invented by OpenAI.
As it can be observed above, the evolution of artificial intelligence is tremendous to humanity. Chat GPT is a natural language processing tool that generates human-like conversations which can revolutionize the world in various ways. In fact, I just commanded it to “Give me a very dramatic article introduction that is less than 30 words for a topic ‘The origin of artificial intelligence,’ and within a matter of seconds, it produced this articulate, yet concise lede.”
The beginning of artificial intelligence can be traced back to 1936, with the invention of the Turing Machine. Alan Turing, widely regarded as the father of modern computer science, developed the Turing machine that could theoretically solve any algorithm in order to solve the Entscheidungsproblem. This was later advanced to artificial intelligence and modern computer science.
The Entscheidungsproblem, also known as the decision problem, asks whether or not there are any algorithmic ways to determine if any given mathematical statement is true or false. The problem was formulated by David Hilbert, one of the most influential German mathematicians, in 1928 in an effort to see if there is a procedure that is capable of solving all mathematical problems. In 1936, Turing proved that there are mathematical problems which can not be solved by any mechanical procedures to see if the statement is true or false.
The Turing Machine did not only solve the decision problem, but also laid down the foundation of fundamental knowledge and technology in computer science which later saved countless lives. During WWII, the allied forces faced hardships due to the Enigma, a complex machine used by Nazi Germany to ensure and secure their communication by encoding messages. This was a huge threat for the allied forces.
Breaking and decoding the Enigma machine was challenging for the allied forces due to its strong encryption which allowed the Germans to secretly share their strategic messages. The Allies, mainly the British at Bletchley Park, worked on decoding the encoded messages sent by the Germans.
Alan Turing played a significant role in developing a machine which was capable of decoding the encoded messages. Based on the knowledge and experience he had gained, he invented a device known as the Bombe machine with fellow code-breakers. The Bombe machine utilized mathematical and logical technologies to seek for the possible set of discs of the Enigma which created the rotations of when each letter of the messages were encrypted. By discerning what the Germans’ strategies were, the allied forces were able to plan their tactics in advance to defend themselves.
Turning’s innovation is widely believed to have been a crucial player in shortening WWII by supporting the allied forces to counter the Germans’ strategies.
Behind his heroic contributions and astounding talents in mathematics, Alan Turning was forced to have a tragic life due to discrimination in society. He was romantically involved with another man, and during his lifetime, homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom. In 1952, when he was 39 years old, he was convicted of gross indecency under the law that illegalized homosexuality.
During the case, he was advised to plead guilty by accepting chemical castration and he did. Chemical castration is a treatment in which the drugs are used to reduce sexual desires and behaviors by altering one’s hormone balances. Alan Turning received chemical castration through injections but there are always negative side effects in the process of chemical castration. The drugs or hormonal treatments can cause one to gain fat and weight and also create unnecessary hormone imbalance which can lead to serious symtomps. The treatment is also physically harmful and can decrease the density in bones.
Furthermore, he was socially isolated due to social prejudice towards homosexuality and forced to live with loneliness. As a result of deep emotional turmoil, on June 7, 1954, at the age of 41, Alan Turning tragically ended his own life by poisoning himself.
In the wake of noble contributions and achievements, Alan Turning, the father of artificial intelligence and computer science, left us sensational human knowledge and advancements. Yet he was compelled to have a tragic life due to the social prejudice and inequality, his spectacular gift in the field of mathematics and computer science had ironically inspired generations to foster technological innovations by profounding his remarkable legacy. It is imperative to acknowledge that there are always individual’s backgrounds and journeys of innovations behind any inventions that shape our lives in a better form.
Besides ChatGPT, there are many other artificial intelligence that have been introduced to our everyday lives. Those highly advanced AI such as AI music composers and illustrators are capable of creating humanlike or even advanced products with demands and less time. Nowadays, the impacts of the developments in artificial intelligence are astonishing. The invention of ChatGPT, for example, has been helping people by providing efficiency and accessibility. For instance, as it is talked about in Business Insider, Tim Boucher, a hyperrealist AI artist and writer, published 97 books in nine months by utilizing ChatGPT and several other artificial intelligence, such as Anthropic's Clause for writing the story, and Midjourney for producing illustrations. Without the application of artificial inteligence, producing nearly 100 books within a year is almost impossible.
Furthermore, AI technology is developing at an unbelievable speed. In the World Economic Forum, it is stated that “90% of AI experts believe that human-level AI could exist within the next 100 years”. By human-level, it is referring to AI that is capable of doing and learning anything that humans can. There will be pros and cons in advancing AI technologies. Some benefits could be: enhancement in productivity, advancement in science, automation, and strengthened security. On the contrary, future disadvantages could be: job displacement, lack of creativity, and lack of morality. However, artificial intelligence systems were not developed overnight and they are the result of a culmination of nearly a century of technological innovation and development.