If you haven’t yet seen The Imitation Game, a movie about Alan Turing and his efforts to break the Enigma Code during WWII, be sure to add it to your ‘must see ‘ list. It’s a great movie, which is bound to take out some well deserved awards.
Like all films though, it has its critics. Poetic license, they say, overtakes historical fact. Important details are omitted.
Nevertheless, I came away from the movie feeling enlightened and informed. The movie is multilayered. Many issues are touched upon in a complex telling of the life of a profound individual who gave our world a great deal. I found myself reaching out, wanting to learn more about Alan Turing, and was pleased to be able to listen to a Phillip Adams podcast in which he interviewed Professor Jack Copeland, an expert on the life and work of Alan Turning. Aired on ABC radio just a week before the film’s release in Australia, the podcast is well worth the listen.
The selection of the movie’s title – The Imitation Game – is also quite interesting, as it is based on a conundrum Turing toyed with throughout his life.
It wasn’t until the ‘after movie discussion’ that I became aware CAPTCHA is a development based on Turing’s genius. CAPTCHA – an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart” is regularly used by numerous websites to determine if the user is a person or a machine. When purchasing tickets online or submitting a comment for publication on a blog for example, a requirement to decipher those often illegible squiggly letters is in fact a process forcing us to complete the “Turning Test” to determine if indeed we really are a human!
Just recently, over one of those lingering coffees which I so enjoy indulging in with my husband, the conversation turned to how dramatically our pursuit of knowledge has been impacted by smartphones. Who could have anticipated that it would be common practice to pick up our smartphones mid-sentence to verify facts, to search for facts or, as so often happens with us, to determine which of us won the ‘bet’ on who was correct on a statement just made! From there, our discussion drifted to the likelihood that one day in the not-too-distant future the entire web could be made available to all of us in any language of choice. We toyed with the notion that this could appear as one of the many options listed at the top of a Google search.
And then, I happened upon an old TEDx video in which I found myself engrossed listening to an explanation of how CAPTCHA was developed by Luis von Ahn and his team. How amazing it was to discover that each time we use CAPTCHA we join millions of others in helping to digitize books – a momentous task! Recorded in 2011, this video became even more informative to me as I listened to von Ahn talk about the development of Duolingo, a program which is now up and running and is one I blogged about just a few months ago: Duolingo: A model for free online education.
Watch this video and be as entranced as I was by the incredible thinking behind CAPTCHA, how humans have been unwittingly harnessed to assist technological development and how this in turn has fed into the development of Duolingo.
I’m in awe sometimes when my reading and learning seems to go full circle, occurring at a time and in a way which I most often never anticipate!
Ah ….. the joy of lifelong learning!!