Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Failing the Turing test

Just when we thought politicians couldn't get any less principled, they go and pull a move like this. Alan Turing receives a royal pardon.

Well, that's very nice. But the question is: why?

Is it because the law he was convicted under is now seen as unjust? Then what of the thousands of others, some no doubt still living, who were convicted under the same law?

Or is it because he was a national hero, who contributed significantly to winning the Second World War, as well as making some significant contributions to early computing?

I hate to say it, but Gordon Brown, of all people, was better than this. His government said that the conviction was correct, even if the law wasn't. Brown's apology to Turing was both appropriate and just: it recognised Turing's contributions, but without closing its eyes to the others affected by the same law.

That's a strong argument, and four years ago it was decisive. It hasn't been forgotten, and it hasn't been answered. It's just been - ignored.

This pardon is just about how special Turing himself was. It's shameless pandering to the gay lobby. And it entrenches the power of "one law for the great, another for the rest of us". It is, I think, slightly more shameful than the original conviction. The people who passed the law under which Turing was convicted - they may have been wrong, but at least they believed in something (in fact, they were most concerned with preventing sexual slavery).

Today's politicians? Don't even pretend to believe. They're just trying to buy votes.

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