Saturday, June 23, 2012

Alan M. Turing and how Government Creates Problems

Alan M. Turing
Today marks the 100th birthday of Alan M. Turing, apparent victim of government busybodies. No, I am not one to engage the assassination theories, at least not those of direct assassination at the hands of government agents. There is ample evidence that he died at his own hand, after having his life ruined by government busybody meddling.

Turing, as you can see in the Encyclopedia Britannica link, was a brilliant mathematician who solved the theoretical problem of how to "compute" and his work is the foundation of modern computing. Turing was also recruited during WWII for the code-breaking efforts at the famed Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, England. After the war, he was employed by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in London to take his theory from paper and build the computing device "in reality." When his fellow geeks decided to build a different gadget, he left them and went to work with the Computing Machine Laboratory. Pretty good resume, eh?

However, as many people find out, Turing discovered government is a harsh, jealous and brutal lover. From Britannica:
Though he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in March 1951, Turing’s life was about to suffer a major reversal. In March 1952 he was prosecuted for homosexuality, then a crime in Britain, and sentenced to 12 months of hormone “therapy”—a treatment that he seems to have borne with amused fortitude. Judged a security risk by the British government, Turing lost his security clearance and his access to ongoing government work with codes and computers. He spent the rest of his short career at the University of Manchester, where he was appointed to a specially created readership in the theory of computing in May 1953.
. . .
Turing was discovered dead in his bed, poisoned by cyanide. A homemade apparatus for silver-plating teaspoons, which included a tank of cyanide, was found in the room next to his bedroom. The official verdict was suicide, but no motive was ever discovered.
Here we have a prime example of government creating a problem, the "crime" of homosexuality and the security clearance issue, combined with government hogging all the cool computer research.  If just one of those three legs did not exist, the stool would have fallen and Turing may have lived a productive and longer life.
Until quite recently homosexuals were considered a security risk for one primary reason: susceptibility to blackmail.  If one were found by hostile forces to be homosexual, the blackmailer could leverage privileged information from the target because of the stigma associated with the crime of homosexuality, a creation of government.

I am not sure when the US government changed its policy, and I only mention that because I live in the USA while Turing lived in the UK and I have no idea what their current rules are today, but now merely being homosexual does not kill your security clearance.

For some years, the National Security Agency in the USA has encouraged homosexual couples withing their employ to get together. They have included homosexuals in their recruiting literature since at least 2009:
Special Emphasis Programs are currently in place for the following groups:
  • African-Americans
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives
  • Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders
  • Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT)
  • Hispanics
  • People with Disabilities
  • Women

(Italics added)

Also, if the British government were not 'hoarding' all of the cool computing jobs, Turing could have worked for private industry, for an employer who did not care who he was knocking loafers with.  A private company free to decide on its own if homosexuality had any impact on worker performance.

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