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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Enigma, Alan Turing, and Blade Runner

- Scott and Winslet

I picked up a movie at the library - Enigma - a 2001 film starring Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, and Jeremy Northam, with a script by Tom Stoppard. It's about the Enigma code-breakers of Bletchley Park during World War II.

In 1943 amid the largest convoy deployment from the US to Britain, cryptanalyst Tom Jericho [Dougray Scott] returns to Bletchley Park to help find the code to the U-Boats' Enigma communications. On finding a cypher containing highly classified information, hidden by a former lover who has gone missing, he attempts to solve the code while working on cracking the German U-Boat code against a background of subterfuge, spies and the Katyn massacre.

The film was co-produced by Mick Jagger, who provided funding for the film, as well as access to his own Enigma machine. It was shot in England, Scotland and the Netherlands. Critical reviews were largely positive, although there was criticism of the largely fictional storyline which does not mention the real codebreaker Alan Turing, nor give due credit to the Polish cryptanalysis foundation on which subsequent British codebreaking was dependent for its successes
- Wikipedia

You can read Roger Ebert's three star review of the film here.The trailer ....

The movie seemed just so-so to me, though Kate Winslet was good, and Dougray Scott did his best as a disturbed and out-of-place working-class genius who'd just had a nervous breakdown. I think it was a mistake to leave Alan Turing left out of the story. Scott's character was based on Turing, but apparently the makers of the movie wanted the main character to have a heterosexual romance, so they created a "Turing-like" character instead.

I have a 2009 post about Turing, in which I wrote ...

I saw that Alan Turing was in the news today - UK gov't apologizes to gay codebreaker Alan Turing

Science dope that I am, I only know who Turing is from watching science fiction tv/movies .... stuff about his Turing test, which gives a guideline for assessing whether one is communicating with a machine or a person. Turing proposed his test in an article for Mind in 1950 - Computing Machinery and Intelligence - in which he claimed that an appropriately programmed computer could think. One of the most well known objections to that theory was the Chinese Room, a thought experiment by John Searle.

In the Chinese Room experiment, Searle gives two scenarios - in one, hidden in a room is a computer which has been programmed to accept input Chinese characters and to respond with other Chinese characters that its programming deems appropriate. It can do this well enough to fool the person outside the room, who is inputting the characters and reading the responses, into believing that he's conversing with a person who understands Chinese. This computer would pass the Turing test. Searle then asks us to imagine another scenario in which not a computer but a man sits hidden in the room, receiving the queries in Chinese and, using the programming instructions, then creating appropriate Chinese responses - the man would also pass the Turing test.

Neither the man nor the computer, however, understand Chinese but are only able to simulate understanding due to their programming. Searle argues that without understanding, neither the computer (nor the man) are thinking.

According to what little I've read, many think that the Chinese Room thought experiment doesn't disprove the Turing test. I wish I could explain why not, but to be honest, though I find this stuff interesting it's pretty much all Greek to me. I like better the Voight-Kampff empathy test in Blade Runner for assessing whether or not someone's a machine - remember the tortoise in the desert? :) ....


Anonymous Victor said...

To be honest with you crystal, this time "I" didn't do any reading, "I" just started by looking at the film and NOW too scared to read anything! :)

I hear ya sinner vic! NOW you see why GOD (Good Old Dad) has HIS Angels watching over U>S (usual sinners) in the real world!

You mean that GOD really does exist Victor?

You know that GOD does exist sinner vic and if you don't believe me, myself and i, just ask His Mother!

OK! Butt, what if "I" want to talk to His Grand Mother?

Give "IT" UP sinner vic!

Peace crystal

12:33 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Victor,

Yes, I'm not sure I recommend the movie. I actually gave up on it half way through :)

1:03 PM  

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