The Great Pretender: Turing as a Philosopher of Imitation – Ian Bogost – The Atlantic
“Everyone pretends.” My favorite piece that I’ve read on Turing in honor of his Centenary. Ian has a wonderful insight into what’s powerful about Turing’s work.
But the computer itself reveals another example of pretense for Turing, thanks to his own theory of abstract computation and its implementation in the device known as the Turing machine. In the form Turing proposed, this machine is a device that manipulates symbols on a strip of tape. Through simple instructions like move forward, erase, write, and read, such a machine can enact any algorithm — and indeed, the design of modern CPUs is based directly on this principle.
Unlike other sorts of machines, the purpose of a Turing machine is not to carry out any specific task like grinding grain or stamping iron, but to simulate any other machine by carrying out its logic through programmed instructions. A computer, it turns out, is just a particular kind of machine that works by pretending to be another machine. This is precisely what today’s computers do–they pretend to be calculators, ledgers, typewriters, film splicers, telephones, vintage cameras and so much more.