Dr. Alan Turing was a pioneer of computer science and the man that many regard as the forefather of modern artificial intelligence. Touring’s work in the early 20th century was so far ahead of his time that much of his methodology remains studied even by those working on modern supercomputers that are millions of times more powerful than the machines of Turing’s era.
Outside of the sciences though, Turing is best remembered as a code-breaker who worked with the UK government during the Second World War in cracking highly sophisticated German messages that were intercepted by the Allies in The Atlantic. At the time, Turing was hailed as a hero who played an invaluable role in helping to defeat fascist Germany.
But Turing’s hero status shifted abruptly after the Second World War when in 1952, he was prosecuted by the same state he once worked for during war time. His offence was committing homosexual acts at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom. In lieu of prison time, Turing underwent a controversial chemical castration procedure which itself led to Turing committing suicide in 1954.
In 2009, the UK government officially apologised for its treatment of Turing while in 2013, Turing received a posthumous pardon for his initial convention by Queen Elizabeth II. Turing’s legacy is one that continues to bring shame to a society that would rather forget how it drove a war hero and scientific genius to suicide as comparatively recently as 1952.
The overall ostrich-like attitude to Turing’s legacy is one that can be summed up by the adage, “the past is a foreign country – they do things differently there”. But just a few minutes drive from Turing’s birth place sits the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where heroic anti-war publisher and activist Julian Assange rots in terms of both his physical and mental health.
Like Turing, Assange has made the world a better place without firing a shot and like turning, Assange used cutting-edge technology in his quest to bring the world stories that the publishers of the so-called mainstream media refused to touch. Just as Turing’s techniques continue to be studied in the 21st century, Assange’s record of never once having to retract a published statement is unique among all modern publishers.
But the similarities do not end there. Both Turing and Assange were initially issued with arrest warrants over sexual related conduct that was subsequently found to be a non-issue in both an official and ethical sense. In Turing’s case, homosexuality was legalised 13 years after his death and in Assange’s case, Swedish prosecutors dropped rape allegations which not only appeared to be fabricated from day one, but even if the allegations were true, they would not be classed as any kind of offence in a majority of the world’s nations, including in the US, Britain and Assange’s home country of Australia.
Clearly, the past is not a foreign country and Britain and its allies continue to do to Assange something remarkably similar to that which they did to Turing. As Assange’s lawyer accurately stated, the Wikileaks founder is faced with the decision to leave the embassy and risk imprisonment, extradition to the US and likely execution, just so he can enter a hospital or otherwise he must remain captive in the Ecuadorian embassy while his health deteriorates. Making matters even worse, for three months Assange has been cut off from his only connection to the outside world, as Ecuador reached an agreement with his state persecutors to disconnect his internet service.
Just as Turing helped to win a war against fascism, Assange helped expose the war criminality of the western establishment, thus pushing millions of people to question false government narratives that have resulted in NATO and its partners going to war after deadly war against countries that did not and materially could not threaten the peace in Europe or North America.
The world is now faced with the very real prospect of Assange dying in captivity as he remains held hostage by the same regimes who turned their back on and in the case of Britain, were the proximate cause of Alan Turing’s death in 1954.
If Assage’s supporters are forced to bury him, the world will know that the west has not learned the very simple lessons of its very recent past. While Assange may receive the kind of posthumous pardon that Turing received, in fifty or sixty years time, while he is still alive, his plight is being almost completely ignored.
Sadly, those with power have no shame and those with shame have no power. Julian Assange may yet go the way of Alan Turing.