Sunday, 6 April 2014

Conference excitement

I was honoured this week to be invited to a performance based on the life of Alan Turing. Usually my mum or aunt does the "representing the Turing family" side of things, but on Wednesday it was my turn!

The show, entitled MIL-STD-1815, was a newly devised composition of acting, song and dance around the concept of "Can machines think?" A much better description of the play itself can be found here - a blog post by journalist Martin Ince who I met and chatted to. It was part of a week-long computing and AI conference at Goldsmiths University called AISB50.


Personally, I loved the quirks; the parts which showed Alan Turing's personality. Particularly the scene where he was searching for the family silver (he buried it in or around the Bletchley Park grounds at the beginning of WWII to prevent it falling into enemy hands. Unfortunately his map and memory weren't quite good enough for him to relocate it, and so it is still missing to this day!).

Following the performance, I met some interesting and inspirational people: Professor Mark Bishop (co-director and science/maths advisor on the show, as well as Chair of AISB50), Professor Barry Cooper,  the performers in the show and Maria Elisabetta Marelli, an Italian playwright. It was lovely to chat with people who rate Turing and his work so highly, and to hear more about what he did.

Maria Elisabetta invited me to her talk the following day, so I rushed out of work on Thursday and almost catapulted myself across London to make it on time. I was so glad that I did! 

The lecture was about a play that was performed in 2012 in Milan. A very well thought out play that looked at many of the concepts that Turing developed, using an amazing array of technology. The clips on their website Turing Case History were incredible and I wish I'd seen the actual show.

I hope that somewhere the funding will be found to bring the Turing Case History to the UK, although I'm very aware that arts funding is a huge issue here. It seemed to me that Thursday's talk initiated discussion between a couple of influential people in the fields of arts, computing and Turing's legacy, so maybe there is a chance...

My view of the stage for MIL-STD-1815, including the piles of sand which represent all the places Turing dug whilst trying to find the family treasures!

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