Celebrities including writer Ian McEwan and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins have signed a petition calling for a posthumous government apology to computing pioneer and wartime code-breaker Alan Turing. A Downing Street petition calling for an apology for the "prosecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death" has …
Best article so far:
You can't unbreak a broken window
While I applaud the intent of those seeking a post hoc apology and/or a posthumous knighthood, I'm afraid that I don't see the point. The treatment meted out to Turing was truly terrible, but that simply reflected the society in which he lived. While we are fortunate to live in a more enlightened social climate, we can't retroactively apply current social standards to the times in which he lived. By all means bring attention to the way he was treated and certainly his acheivements should be feted - he has long been a hero of mine - but no amount of apologies made by those who came after his persecutors can make amends for what he went through and what he was driven to.
OTOH, putting him on the back of a banknote is an excellent idea.
Lets all start demanding apologies from people for things they didn't do that happened before most of them were born.
Pigs might fly
I'd love to see Gordon Brown take a bold moral stance on this and deliver a long-overdue apology to a great man. But given his track record of keeping eerily quiet on a plethora of significant issues I'm not getting my hopes up.
If you want to start a petition for him to be on a banknote, then I'll sign that.
I guess many of your readers would as well.
He deserves it
I tend to dislike the idea of present governments apologising for the deeds of people long dead from a different culture,but I do think there should be some more overt tribute to Turing's legacy; and something more concrete (and useful) than a pointless apology or a useless knighthood. A substantial research grant or student prize perhaps, or a nobel prize equivalent for computing or AI.
Can't see the point of an apology
But I'd vote for the banknote idea. However, I'd say the likelihood of him appearing on a Bank of England note is severely hampered by the fact he wasn't Scottish.
+1 for the banknote
I for one would like to see the Godfather of AI on our currency.
"Turing has no surviving family." Ancestors were always perhaps a little unlikely... Evolution dictates survival of the fittest (for a given environment), not necessarily of the most intelligent. Be nice to see him on a banknote though - far more suitable than a public apology.
Any takers for the "Evolve" fish as a Reg icon?
Dear King Harold
Sorry about your eye.
Re: You can't unbreak a broken window
Following the same logic slavery is OK (they got an apology). If we stick to this logic even further so was shooting shell-shocked WW1 soldiers as deserters (they got an apology and a posthumous pardon). And so on.
The fact that homosexuality at the time was a criminal offence does not by any mean make it a valid excuse for the lack of apology and lack of posthumous pardon.
These are becoming more common even though they're so stupid. Wrong ministers, wrong government, wrong society, wrong time. The man who gives such an apology is duplicitous and insincere. The man who accepts such an apology is an idiot.
That said, it is about time he was honoured outside of computer science.
Your point is diametrically opposed to what I was trying, and obviously failed, to say.
A wrong was committed against Alan Turing by the society in which he lived, a wrong which you quite correctly rate as heinous as slavery. No apology made by the current government and, by extension, current society can right that wrong. The apology made no difference to the poor sods with broken minds shot in WW1; maybe it salved the consciences of the descendents of those in charge of the shootings but it could do no more.
Rather than a worthless apology we would do better to remember what happened, why it happened and make sure that we don't allow the same thing to happen again.
I usually agree that...
Posthumous apologies are too little, too late, and certainly don't benefit the people that are "receiving" the apology. But I will say, I was completely unaware of his treatment/suicide before all this came up - so it has had some real benefit, even if the apology never comes.
Though arguably just as useless in any sort of tangible sense, I actually like the idea of a remembrance through a knighthood or bank note.
Name the names
Irrespective of whether or not an apology is forthcoming it seems quite fitting and proper for names to be named.
Who was it that decided upon chemical castration for Turing?
Who enforced the decision?
Who observed its efficacy or lack of it?
In other words who were the individuals responsible?
The world ought to know and, as I guess a few of you might be realising:
UK, you get what you deserve.
One of many
While this is very commendable, what about the thousands of others who were treated the same if not worse? Or is that ok because they didn't contribute anything of value?
Good thing he didn't live in Britain...
...or no doubt he'd have been treated even worse. Probably would never have made it out of his teens.
"Turing's contribution to defeating the Nazi's and computing"
Yeah, eat that computing! Damn Nazi computing, they're in cahoots I tellz ya!
Or we could try to fix the injustice and suffering of those alive now
There are plenty who need help.
The dead don't hurt any more.
What about Oscar Wilde?
Not a war hero
I hope any tributes to Turing emphasise his contribution to mathematics rather than his assistance to someone's war effort. It's perhaps rather insulting to celebrate him as just a war hero. We don't remember Archimedes for his contribution to (whichever war his siege engines were used in), do we?
I agree: apologies are pointless, but let's put him on a banknote or something like that and let more people know how he was treated.
I'm probably in a majority of one here, but I'd rather have the, possibly hypocritical, persecutors of Turing outed. Especially if any of them turned out subsequently to be, errr, what's the current PC term here, alternately sexual perhaps. After all, if Turing can have his situation changed posthumously, why can't those who, with the benefit of lots of hindsight, have their honours removed and their entries in "Who's Who" rewritten to reflect their inhumanity to their fellow man.
Apple - anybody
I think the Apple Logo is probably as good a tribute to Turing as you are going to get. But I can't really see them putting the Apple Logo on the back of Sterling.
Or maybe a picture of Turing sitting contemplating his arsenic apple lunch. Yeah that would work!
Ohh I'm sorry PC'ers didn't you realise the Apple Logo was a tribute to Turing.
ffs , on..no sorry thats
Tourettes - sorry I confused that f**** Tourette with Mr Turing
maybe Turing's offspring were "Turettes"
"Not a war hero"
Turing was already working for GCCS (Government Code and Cypher School) before the war started - he was not a concientous objector and like most of his generation, wanted to help defeat the Nazis.
I also don't see the point of an apology but would be happy to see Turing's life celebrated with a bank note.
The UK seems determined to flush it's history down the toilet - the anniversary of the forming of the United Kingdom being ignored, Frank Whittle's work on the jet engine glossed over in favour of the Germans, movies about the recovery of the Engima machine telling barefaced lies, etc. etc. To acknowledge Turing's work would go against precedent already established, and to pardon or apologise to someone punished for being gay would no doubt upset at least seven members of the Christian Church, so it's not very likely.
Sad, really, how we choose to treat our history and those who made it.
@You can't unbreak a broken window
A million glaziers might disagree.
"Who was it that decided upon chemical castration for Turing?"
Turing did - the other alternative was imprisonment
"....hypocritical, persecutors of Turing outed..."
He wasn't persecuted, he was prosecuted. He reporting that his house had been broken into to the police. However in the course of the police investigation he admitted to prior homosexual activities with the individual concerned. At that point it all went sour.
A good question is what else could they do to give recognition - some support for Bletchely Park would be nice - but I suspect that an apology works out cheaper.
[4 Mark Rendle ] Love it!
Sorry about the meteor. Slip of the Laws of Physics.
B. Bang (Mrs).
Yeah, that's one of the theories available......although I find it somewhat unbelievable that a start-up company (they started using the apple logo in their first year) would risk it's future in choosing to associate themselves with a symbol denoting suicide.
Not good business, no matter how appealing the story is to us now.
Much more likely that the Isaac Newton angle is the correct one.
Honestly, fanbois really will take any opportunity to troll..........
Forget about the bank note, it'll never happen. Money for Bletchley Park on the other hand, is a great idea.
@ By Jay Castle -
How dare you - I'm no fanboi
I just think its a good story.............
And a more intresting than going ' I agree'
oh what the --
"While we are fortunate to live in a more enlightened social climate, we can't retroactively apply current social standards to the times in which he lived."
That's a hell of a statement! It'd be even more potent if I had any idea what you were trying to say. Right now, it sounds like you're trying to argue that we can't make meaningful moral judgments about anything that had the good fortune of happening before we were personally born, and that's just stupid.
As politicization would probably prevent the PM from "recommending" a knighthood, perhaps her Majesty could see clear to a posthumous Knight Grand Cross of the Victorian Order? Certainly Turing's work on Enigma was a great personal service to the monarchy.
"Much more likely that the Isaac Newton angle is the correct one."
Anyone who's ever seen Apple's original logo knows that it is. And anyone who thinks that the iconified apple in seven colors was Apple's original logo needs to do the research.
You think there should be "some more overt tribute to Turing's legacy; and something more concrete (and useful) than a pointless apology or a useless knighthood. A substantial research grant or student prize perhaps, or a nobel prize equivalent for computing or AI."
How about say, the Turing Award, given annually by the Association for Computer Machinery since 1966 and generally recognized as the highest recognition in computer science, effectively it's Nobel Prize?
Just a thought. :>)
Apologise to a dead guy, Prof Hawkins?
I would be fascinated to hear the undoubtedly rigorous logic Prof. Dawkins uses to explain why he is apologising to somebody who is by Prof Dawkins understang out of ear shot. I am sure he has an independantly verifiable experiment to demonstrate that Dr Turing appreciates his noble gesture.
Surely not an empty, meaningless ritual?
Tee Hee! I have to admit to a little trolling myself......
Thanks for playing.
- Hi-torque tank engines: EXTREME car hacking with The Register
- Product round-up Ten excellent FREE PC apps to brighten your Windows
- Review What's MISSING on Amazon Fire Phone... and why it WON'T set the world alight
- Product round-up Trousers down for six of the best affordable Androids
- Why did it take antivirus giants YEARS to drill into super-scary Regin? Symantec responds...