thinking is dangerous

The gay machine

I wrote the previous post on accident. I was meaning to post a sarcastic response to a review of a new biography of Turing. I ended up writing a draft of the first half of my prelim proposal, and have since lost my sarcastic edge. Now I just want to lay down.

From Scientific American: A Tour of Turing

Leavitt's focus is elsewhere, however. It is on Turing as the gay outsider, driven to his death. No opportunity is lost to highlight this subtext. When Turing quips about the principle of "fair play for machines," Leavitt sees a plea for homosexual equality. It is quite right to convey his profound alienation and to bring out the consistency of his English liberalism. It is valuable to show human diversity lying at the center of scientific inquiry. But Leavitt's laborious decoding understates the constant dialogue between subjective individual vision and the collective work of mathematics and science, with its ideal of objectivity, to which Turing gave his life.

Turing, of course, was unappologetic and unflinching in his sexuality towards anyone who knew him well; the idea that his defense of machines was somehow a sublimated plea for sexual equality is just silly. But let's hope for the sake of my project that this notion of 'fair play' doesn't rest on one man's obtuse metaphor.

For those that don't know his tragic tale, Turing was eventually driven to suicide on account of persecution.

From his Wikipedia article:

Turing was a homosexual man during a period when homosexuality was illegal. In 1952, his lover, Arnold Murray, helped an accomplice to break into Turing's house, and Turing went to the police to report the crime. As a result of the police investigation, Turing acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray, and they were charged with gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885. Turing was unrepentant and was convicted. Although he could have been sent to prison, he was placed on probation, conditional on him undergoing hormonal treatment designed to reduce libido. He accepted the oestrogen hormone injections, which lasted for a year, with side effects including the development of breasts. His conviction led to a removal of his security clearance and prevented him from continuing consultancy for GCHQ on cryptographic matters.

In 1954, he died of cyanide poisoning, apparently from a cyanide-laced apple he left half-eaten. The apple itself was never tested for contamination with cyanide, and cyanide poisoning as a cause of death was established by a post-mortem. Most believe that his death was intentional, and the death was ruled a suicide. It is rumoured that this method of self-poisoning was in tribute to Turing's beloved film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. His mother, however, strenuously argued that the ingestion was accidental due to his careless storage of laboratory chemicals. Friends of his have said that Turing may have killed himself in this ambiguous way quite deliberately, to give his mother some plausible deniability. The possibility of assassination has also been suggested, owing to Turing's involvement in the secret service and the perception of Turing as a security risk due to his homosexuality.

In the book, Zeroes and Ones, author Sadie Plant speculates that the rainbow Apple logo with a bite taken out of it was an homage to Turing. This seems to be an urban legend as the Apple logo was designed in 1976, two years before Gilbert Baker's rainbow pride flag.
21:20 :: :: eripsa :: permalink