the inspiration behind Greg Michaelson’s short story, ‘A Visit To The Turing Machine’
I first studied Turing machines as a Computer Science undergraduate at the University of Essex in the early 1970s. I have in turn taught undergraduates about Turing machines, which remain the classic model of computing. Currently, I am collaborating with colleagues at the University of Glasgow on research into contemporary challenges to the logical limits of computation that Turing established. Key points of interest include Turing machines as specifications of physical machines, and the implications of computability limits for economic planning.
While Turing’s machines were a mathematician’s thought experiment, I have long been intrigued by the possibility of actually constructing an actual Turing machine. I have also had a long standing interest in artificial intelligence, which Turing helped found, and the economic implications of sentient machines. Finally, I am appalled by the cynical use of computers to control international financial markets to the benefit of a tiny minority at everyone else’s expense.
Thus, as a fiction writer, I was taken with whimsical synergies between these themes, all realised in an alternative reality where global impoverishment has led to a society without computers.
A longer version of this story was published in the schools’ WWW magazine CS4Fun earlier this year.
- Posted in: Inspiration behind the work