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Turing's Test by Andy Lord and Phil Collinge

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Download Turing's Test from The Independent website

Made in Manchester/ Dark Smile Productions, 24 October 2009
 
This bio-drama looked at the final moments in the life of Bletchley Park code-breaker Alan Turing (1812-54), who apparently committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide.
 
Played by Samuel Barnett, Turing looked back on his life in the company of a "machine" (Paul Kendrick), which could keep up a very good dialogue; but only to a limited extent. Whenever questions of emotional response came up, the machine claimed that it had not been programmed sufficiently. This was an extremely clever conceit on the authors' part, revealing the ambiguities of Turing's life. Whereas he has been widely credited as the "father" of modern computer science and/or artificial intelligence, he was also the victim of a repressive society that refused to acknowledge the presence of cultural and sexual difference. Like the machine, those in power in post-1945 Britain had a series of programmed responses to different situations, and therefore could not countenance Turing's presence within their midst.
 
Despite his distinguished war record, Turing was gradually manoeuvred out of his job and later arrested on a charge of gross indecency. He was given the choice of either going to prison or being released on probation and going on a course of oestrogen to "cure" him of his homosexuality. Thıs had unfortunate side-effects as Turing grew breasts. Cast out on the margins of a society as limited in its vision as the computer he created, Turing had little option other than to take his own life.
 
In Barnett's vocally rich performance, full of light and shade as well as an underlying hint of desperation, Turing came across as a rather desperate man advocating the importance of the emotions in life. If they were ignored, then human beings would be transformed into automata. However it was one of the ironies of Turing's life that he made a significant contribution towards the development of the computer - a machine that could never recognize emotional responses.