Virtual Memory: Time-Based Art and the Dream of Digitality
Keys to Turing
This chapter offers a queer reading of the life and work of the mathematician, cryptanalyst, and computing pioneer Alan Turing, who is best known for his World War II military intelligence work and for cracking the German Enigma cipher. Turing designed prototypes for the modern computer and conducted groundbreaking research in artificial intelligence. In the 1950s he was arrested on gross indecency charges and subjected to chemical castration treatments that may have driven him to suicide. Turing’s life and work reveal a queer drive in the development of the computer. This chapter argues that his sexuality—or more specifically the way he endured the oppressive burdens of homosexuality in his time—was not incidental to his mathematical achievements. Rather his interests in cryptic communication, the limits of computational thinking, and the relationship between humans and machines were driven by a queer, romantic, and deeply sociable sensibility.