FOM: General Intellectual Interest

Martin Davis davism at
Thu Mar 25 19:11:17 EST 1999

At 01:30 PM 3/25/99 -0600, Pat Hayes wrote:
>Harvey Friedman writes:
>>But I am confident that you will join me and many others on the FOM list in
>>enthusiastically celebrating this recognition of Turing and Godel!!
>Well, yes and no. Imagine what one of the apostles would have felt if he
>had known that one day there would be best-selling books on the Christian
>approach to making lots of money.
>I dont think it is really a cause for celebration because I dont think it
>really is recognition in the sense that would be worth celebrating. I think
>that Turing is there largely because he is now a national hero in England,
>largely as a result of the romantic image produced by his secret WW2
>codebreaking work and the tragic outcome of his persecution as a
>homosexual. (He has much the same popular fascination as Stephen Hawkins,
>another 'warped genius'. For another example of the power of this
>particular meme, watch the ghastly movie "Good Will Hunting".) And I think
>Godel is there largely for the worst possible reasons, which Steve Simpson
>is acutely aware of, ie because his work is widely regarded as having shown
>that a certain kind of 'oldfashioned' 'linear' thinking is forever doomed.
>Several best-selling recent books put Godel into center stage in order to
>'prove' that AI is impossible, for example. I think that 99% of the
>educated adult population don't have even a glimmering of comprehension of
>what Godel's theorems actually mean, and they probably think that Turing
>machines were sold by IBM in 1950.
>Pat Hayes

Dear Pat,

Please read the TIME's articles before forming conclusions about them.


More information about the FOM mailing list