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42 Alan Turing Quotes From The Father of Modern Computing

Alan Mathison Turing was a brilliant mind and a war hero. The Englishman’s professional credits include mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. 

The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, chronicles his time during the war. Under the direction of Commander Alastair Denniston, he joins the cryptography team of Hugh Alexander, John Cairncross, Peter Hilton, Keith Furman, and Charles Richards.

Together they try to analyze the Enigma machine and crack the code the Nazis are using to send messages. These Alan Turing quotes include some from the movie, as well as quotes about artificial intelligence and computer science.

Turing is often referred to as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. The Turing machine formalized concepts of algorithms and computations providing a framework for early computers.

In 1946, King George VI appointed Turing an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his wartime service contributions. Turing’s genius and efforts during the war didn’t safeguard him from the struggles he would face because of his personal life. Enjoy these Alan Turing quotes!

Don’t forget to also check out these science quotes from famous scientists about life and death.

Alan Turing quotes from The Imitation Game

1. “Of course, machines can’t think as people do. A machine is different from a person. Hence, they think differently. The interesting question is, just because something, uh.. thinks differently from you, does that mean it’s not thinking?”  Benedict Cumberbatch, (Alan Turing, The Imitation Game)

2. “Was I God? No. Because God didn’t win the war. We did.”  Benedict Cumberbatch, (Alan Turing, The Imitation Game)

3. “I like solving problems, Commander. And Enigma is the most difficult problem in the world.”  Benedict Cumberbatch, (Alan Turing, The Imitation Game)

4. “Think of it. A digital computer. Electrical brain.”  Benedict Cumberbatch, (Alan Turing, The Imitation Game)

5. “Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes… hollow.”  Benedict Cumberbatch, (Alan Turing, The Imitation Game)

6. “Are you paying attention?”  Benedict Cumberbatch, (Alan Turing, The Imitation Game)

7. “Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes hollow.”  Benedict Cumberbatch, (Alan Turing, The Imitation Game)

Prophetic Alan Turing quotes about artificial intelligence

8. “A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human.” ― Alan Turing

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9. “No, I’m not interested in developing a powerful brain. All I’m after is just a mediocre brain, something like the President of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.” ― Alan Turing

10. “If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent.” ― Alan Turing

11. “It seems probable that once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers… They would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage, therefore, we should have to expect the machines to take control.” ― Alan Turing

12. “The original question, ‘Can machines think?’ I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion.” ― Alan Turing

13. “One day ladies will take their computers for walks in the park and tell each other, ‘My little computer said such a funny thing this morning.’” ― Alan Turing

14. “We are not interested in the fact that the brain has the consistency of cold porridge.” ― Alan Turing

15. “I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.” ― Alan Turing

16. “We like to believe that Man is in some subtle way superior to the rest of creation. It is best if he can be shown to be necessarily superior, for then there is no danger of him losing his commanding position.” ― Alan Turing

17. “We may hope that machines will eventually compete with men in all purely intellectual fields.” ― Alan Turing

18. “Unless in communicating with it one says exactly what one means, trouble is bound to result.” ― Alan Turing

Famous Alan Turing quotes about computer science, codes, and math

19. “Codes are a puzzle. A game, just like any other game.” ― Alan Turing

20. “Programming is a skill best acquired by practice and example rather than from books.” ― Alan Turing

21. “Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition.” ― Alan Turing

22. “Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically as the exercise of a combination of two facilities, which we may call intuition and ingenuity.” ― Alan Turing

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23. “Mathematical reasoning may be regarded.” ― Alan Turing

24. “The works and customs of mankind do not seem to be very suitable material to which to apply scientific induction.” ― Alan Turing

25. “The exercise of ingenuity in mathematics consists in aiding the intuition through suitable arrangements of propositions, and perhaps geometrical figures or drawings.” ― Alan Turing

26. “Up to a point, it is better to just let the snags [bugs] be there than to spend such time in design that there are none.” ― Alan Turing

Inspirational Turing quotes about life and relationships

27. “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” ― Alan Turing

28. “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” ― Alan Turing

29. “I have had a dream indicating rather clearly that I am on the way to being hetero, though I don’t accept it with much enthusiasm either awake or in the dreams.” ― Alan Turing

30. “I have such a stressful job that the only way I can get it out of my mind is by running hard.” ― Alan Turing

31. “I want a permanent relationship, and I might feel inclined to reject anything which of its nature could not be permanent.” ― Alan Turing

32. “Those who can imagine anything can create the impossible.” ― Alan Turing

33. “Finding such a person makes everyone else appear so ordinary… and if anything happens to him, you’ve got nothing left but to return to the ordinary world, and a kind of isolation that never existed before.” ― Alan Turing

34. “It is not possible to produce a set of rules purporting to describe what a man should do in every conceivable set of circumstances.” ― Alan Turing

35. “Instead of trying to produce a program to simulate the adult mind, why not rather try to produce one which simulates the child’s? If this were then subjected to an appropriate course of education, one would obtain the adult brain.” ― Alan Turing

36. “I’m afraid that the following syllogism may be used by some in the future. Turing believes machines think Turing lies with men Therefore machines do not think Yours in distress, Alan.” ― Alan Turing

Alan Turing quotes about machines, computers, and other ‘enigmas’

37. “Machines take me by surprise with great frequency.” ― Alan Turing

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38. “The idea behind digital computers may be explained by saying that these machines are intended to carry out any operations which could be done by a human-computer.” ― Alan Turing

39. “A very large part of space-time must be investigated if reliable results are to be obtained.” ― Alan Turing

40. “It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence.” ― Alan Turing

41. “A man provided with paper, pencil, and rubber, and subject to strict discipline, is in effect a universal machine.” ― Alan Turing

42. “There is, however, one feature that I would like to suggest should be incorporated in the machines, and that is a ‘random element.’ Each machine should be supplied with a tape bearing a random series of figures, e.g., 0 and 1 in equal quantities, and this series of figures should be used in the choices made by the machine. This would result in the behavior of the machine not being by any means completely determined by the experiences to which it was subjected, and would have some valuable uses when one was experimenting with it.” ― Alan Turing

What did you learn from these Alan Turing quotes?

Turing was gay, and the British Government punished him for it. Some of these Alan Turing quotes offer insight into his thoughts about relationships, and how he feared people would question his intelligence because of his sexual orientation.

In 1952, Turing was arrested for homosexual acts; the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 had mandated that “gross indecency” was a criminal offense in the UK. As punishment for his “crime”, he suffered through chemical castration treatment, with DES, instead of going to prison.

Two years later, Turing died after biting into an apple laced with cyanide. The official inquest into his death ruled it a suicide, but there was also evidence that suggested it was accidental poisoning. Apparently, Turing was often conducting experiments, and it is possible that he ingested the poison accidentally.

The circumstances of his death, though, have led to a theory that Apple’s logo (the apple with a bite of it) is a nod of tribute to the man who made significant strides in computer programming.

Do you have favorite Alan Turing quotes and sayings? If so, share it with us in the comment section below.

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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