Theory, Culture and Society 36 (6):73-94 (2019)

Giuseppe Longo
École Normale Supérieure
This personal, yet scientific, letter to Alan Turing, reflects on Turing's personality in order to better understand his scientific quest. It then focuses on the impact of his work today. By joining human attitude and particular scientific method, Turing is able to “immerse himself” into the phenomena on which he works. This peculiar blend justifies the epistolary style. Turing makes himself a “human computer”, he lives the dramatic quest for an undetectable imitation of a man, a woman, a machine. He makes us see the continuous deformations of a material action/reaction/diffusion dynamics of hardware with no software. Each of these investigations opens the way to new scientific paths with major consequences for contemporary live and for knowledge. The uses and the effects of these investigations will be discussed: the passage from classical AI to today's neural nets, the relevance of non-linearity in biological dynamics, but also their abuses, such as the myth of a computational world, from a Turing-machine like universe to an encoded homunculus in the DNA. It is shown that these latter ideas, which are sometimes even made in Turing's name, contradict his views.
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DOI 10.1177/0263276418769733
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