Turing Elves — to whom I have referred several times on this blog — are those often invisible but near-ubiquitous souls who have no official standing vis a vis Alan Turing, but who nonetheless mount performances, create objects d’art, and otherwise do deeds that honor, commemorate, or even parody the man, his work, and his legacy.
They are “Elves” because, like Santa’s Elves, they work unseen offstage and then suddenly brighten everyone’s day by delivering their gifts to the world.
My hat is off to the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee and all the other official Turing Year folks, who are doing an amazing job — I don’t want to detract in any way from what they’re doing, just to add to it.
The Turing Elves are the DIYers, guerilla theatre artists, and flash mob ghosts of the Turing legacy. Out of sheer geek love, with a rampant sense of fun and often without even attribution, they enhance the world, each in their own, individual way.
They are people like:
- Posterchild, who decorated Toronto, Canada with the Turingator
- Rupert Rawnsley of Cardiff, UK, who revived the ancient art of the lithophane through a steampunk-ish combination of artisnal craft and 3D printing, and
- The various folks (listed in the credits) who wrote and performed the awesome Turiung/Gödel rap battle
Heck, the original Turing Elf has to have been Andrew Hodges, who is now a member of the Advisory Committe, but long before the Alan Turing Year was dreamt of he published Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983). His book contributed critically to Turing’s rise from relative obscurity among the general public to something rather better than obscurity today — something bordering on fame, at least as far as awesome mathematicians experience it — and I have to imagine that it was a lonely thing indeed to have been a Turing Elf in those days.
So, Turing Elves. Now you know.