“A Great science fiction detective story”
– Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Days to Centenary: 170
Believe it or not there are still places on the Earth where there are no internet connections — such places certainly exist in the southern hemisphere, where I live — and over the holidays I was in just such a place, whichI hope explains the absence of new posts on any of my blogs for a little while.
Now that I’m back: Happy Alan Turing Year!
As I counted down to midnight on December 31, 2011 surrounded by family and friends, my thoughts were mostly with the people around me (and others who couldn’t be there), which is as it should be. But I was certainly aware, as well, that the Turing year was about to begin… was about to begin… and then suddenly had begun.
For many people this will be a culminating moment. I imagine it must be such a moment for Andrew Hodges, who many years ago painstakingly pieced together a myriad of fragments from the life of a man who was too much forgotten and pieced them together into a biography that helped revive him in our collective memory.
It was Hodges’ book that first exposed me to Turing in the 1980s. I recently bought my fourth — or is it fifth? — copy of Alan Turing: The Enigma, because I can’t resist giving the book away when I meet someone whom I think might enjoy it or benefit from it. Then, after a time of not having it on my shelf, I’m suddenly afflicted with the need to read it again and have to go out and buy another copy and each time I return to it I learn something new. For that iterative, cumulative experience, thank you Dr. Hodges, and Happy Alan Turing Year.
And along with him, a very big thank you and Happy Alan Turing Year to the many good people (in part represented here) — most of whom will never have the profile that Dr. Hodges does — who have worked so hard to ensure that the Alan Turing Year happened at all, and who continue to work to ensure that the myriad of events that make up the celebration all over the world actually take place. You guys are awesome.
And on the topic of people who make the Alan Turing Year happen, having acknowledged all the official folks, let’s not forget the Turing Elves, those unofficial individuals who — through works of art and DIY technical projects and a myriad of other endeavors that are as disparate and entertaining as the Elves themselves — help make every year Alan Turing Year.
And just as it’s a culminating moment for Dr. Hodges, for the official ATY folks, and for the Elves, I can only imagine that it must also be such a moment for Turing’s surviving family members, who only learned many years after the event of Turing’s important role in the war, who finally saw him receive the apology he deserved from the government that persecuted him, and who may now at long last see him pardoned (see this post), which is the most complete vindication that the law can extend to him at this late date. This is the year the family Turing (whether they bear the name or not) get to finally enjoy the honour that should have been his and theirs a long, long time ago.
It will also be a culminating moment for the members of an LGBT community that is by now so multi-generational, international, and diverse that it can hardly be called one community at all. It is a constellation of communities that has, since the beginning of the gay liberation movement in the late 1960s, evolved to have a strength and a public profile that once would have been unthinkable.
Even now it remains a reality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, the transgendered, and the queer, that each person’s personhood — their character, their intrinsic nature, their contribution to the world, their strengths and flaws, their very self — is too often overshadowed by the simple fact of their sexual orientation. It’s maddening to be reduced in that way and this recognition of Turing helps to minimize that kind of reduction. We’re not where we need to be yet, but when a man of Turing’s stature has gone as long as he has with as little recognition as he’s had almost exclusively because of his sexual orientation, international recognition of the kind that the Alan Turing Year provides is certainly a move in the right direction.
And this should also be a culminating moment for any number of others who are ignored or dehumanized or belittled on account of factors that ought to have no bearing on one’s view of them or on their ability to participate fully in social and professional life, whether that factor is their race, their gender, their religion, a physical or psychological idiosyncrasy or affliction, or anything else which might impair us in our ability to see them as whole and invididual people while it does nothing at all to diminish them. The diminishment of any one of us diminishes us all and the long overdue recognition of Turing enriches us all.
Which means that — while we must never allow ourselves to be distracted from Turing himself, his work, and the honours that he’s earned — this is nonetheless an Alan Turing Year for everyone.
So, Happy Alan Turing Year to you.
[Note: The image in this post was borrowed from here.]