Tag Archives: Bertrand Russell

Sackville Gardens

A walk in a Manchester Park on a Sunday morning …

Tucked away between Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road train stations is a quiet – but very touching – memorial to Alan Turing.  In Sackville Park (or Sackville Gardens, depending on which map you consult), a figure sits, holding an apple, on a bench.  Both are cast in bronze.  The relief reads, ‘Alan Mathison Turing 1912-1954′ along with an ENIGMA-style coding of, ‘Founder of Computer Science’.  At the figure’s feet, a further inscription reads, ‘Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice … Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture’, the second part being a quotation from Bertrand Russell.


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The Problem with ‘Futurology’

What’s your favourite terrible technological prediction?  There are plenty to choose from, that’s for sure.  The following is just a brief list of the most infamous computing-based futurology howlers (oldest to newest):

  1. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”, Thomas Watson: IBM chairman (1943) (* or was it someone else?)
  2. Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons”, Popular Mechanics (1949)
  3. “I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year”, Prentice Hall: Business Books Editor (1957)
  4. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”, Ken Olsen: DEC founder (1977)
  5. “640K ought to be enough for anybody”, Bill Gates (1981) (* or did he really?)
  6. “We will never make a 32-bit operating system”, Bill Gates (1989)
  7. “Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time”, Bill Gates (2004)
  8. “Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput”, Alan Sugar (2005)

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The Glorious Gödel

This might seem a bit off-track but a blog inspired, even loosely, by Alan Turing, can hardly not mention Kurt Gödel.  In simple terms, it could be said that Gödel was to Mathematics what Turing was to Computer Science but even that’s a pretty one-dimensional portrayal.  Both were intrigued by what was possible in science and mathematics and both shed light on how one area of research could be used to model another.  Turing’s work with the patterns of nature has parallels with Gödel’s models of the universe.  Both were intent on considering the ‘bigger picture’, whether spiritual or part of a ‘master program’.  Turing saw order in chaos; Gödel saw God in science. Continue reading