Digital Innovation

I was launch editor of Digital Innovation, a new site published by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and part of a widely university initiative ‘designed to respond to the rapid speed of change in the digital sector’.

Alan Turing and The Creator

Al and Al, Alan Turing and The Creator, 2012
Al and Al, Alan Turing and The Creator, 2012

We all know that Enigma Code breaker and mathematical genius Alan Turing invented the modern computer in Manchester. But it’s specifically his ideas and research about Artificial Intelligence (AI) that has inspired a new short film by Manchester artists and filmmakers Al and Al (Al Holmes and Al Taylor)

The 45-minute short, The Creator, is screening at Cornerhouse as part of the Abandon Normal Devices Festival, having premiered in June to coincide with the centenary of Turing’s birth.

“Turing came to Manchester as one of the world’s most brilliant mathematicians,” says Al Holmes. “During his time in the city he started to realise the next stage in his understanding of computers, and developed the idea of a thinking machine and artificial intelligence.”

It was also while in Manchester that Turing, who was gay, was arrested and charged with gross indecency – homosexuality was a criminal offence in Britain at the time. Turing was forced to undertake a cause of oestrogen – effectively chemical castration – and ultimately committed suicide in 1954 by eating an apple poisoned with cyanide.

The Creator presents a surreal, dream-like imagining of the last days of Turing’s life, combined with a quest by his robotic ‘offspring’ to explore their origins, as they delve into the life and mind of their ‘creator’, Turing.

“The Turing film has been in the studio for the last 15 years, really,” adds Taylor. “We’ve been reading and thinking about him all this time, and of course we’ve been using computers in our work since art school.”

Al and Al describe the film as “about the person and not just his achievements”. It displays an intensely personal connection to the subject matter that, they believe, can also be seen in our own relationship with computers.

“Computers are quite strange things really – machines that you store all your memories and personal work on. Your computer has its own personality in some ways, and you can get quite close to it. And that feeds into this whole idea [in The Creator] around who had actually made them.”

Originally published 30 August 2012 on Digital Innovation

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