That Wittgenstein and Turing would both lecture on the foundations of mathematics at the same time in the same place seems like one of the great coincidences of history. That in so doing they came into conflict and seemingly hardened their views may have been one of the great tragedies of history. What if their paths did not cross until later under conditions that would have forced them to explore the common grounds of their interests?

Topics to expand:

  • why Turing might have extended his stay in the USA and what he might have learned about the developing computing device industry in the States.
  • how Wittgenstein might have been able to come into contact with Turing during the war

Right now, I'm thinking that had Wittgenstein been left to develop his thinking about discrete and finite mathematics, he might have published something in the area of mathematics that would have been of interest to Turing. JWSchmidt 04:10, 16 Mar 2005 (GMT)

Questions and Comments

I'm assuming you're going to expand beyond the blurb that you've posted as the sub-page to the alt-hist. A couple of questions

1) How does this later meeting cause a POD from OTL?

2) How/Why does homosexuality come into play, is it a major POD, or is it just an interesting anecdotal change?

3) For my knowledge: What correlates are there between *there* and *here* for this Althist? Louisiannan

Reply to the above....

1) How does this later meeting cause a POD from OTL?

The initial POD takes place in the USA when Turing is working on his Ph.D. dissertation and trying to decide when to return to England. In OTL, Turing was offered a job by von Neumann, but Turing did not take the job. In the alternate history, Turing's thesis advisor (Church) shows Turing a copy of Claude E. Shannon's journal article describing his Masters degree thesis (1937) on how to do Boolean algebra using electronic circuits. Turing arranges for Shannon to visit Princeton and Shannon decides to do his Ph.D. research there working with Turing rather than at Cold Spring Harbor. Shannon first completes the digital calculating circuit that Turing has already started to construct then builds the special purpose computer to calculate the Riemann zeta-function that Turing has dreamed of. In order to continue working with Shannon on this computer, Turing takes the job offer from von Neumann, delaying his return to England.

A longer stay in the USA prevents Turing from interacting with Wittgenstein in 1939. In OTL, the confrontations between Turing and Wittgenstein over the nature of mathematics were important in shaping Wittgenstein's work on the philosophy of mathematics. In the absence of Turing being in Cambridge and offering his lectures on mathematics, several mathematically trained students decide to attend Wittgenstein's lectures (rather than Turing's lectures as actually happened in OTL). In particular, Donald C. MacPhail establishes a relationship with Wittgenstein, becoming the "star pupil" in Wittgenstein's 1939 lectures (rather than Turing's).

MacPhail, stimulated by Wittgenstein's iconoclastic views of logic, devises a "calculus of contradiction". This new branch of mathematical logic is basically a method for working with a large system of theorems, some of which are contradictory. MacPhail and Wittgenstein realize that MacPhail's methods for dealing with mathematical contradiction are applicable to the semantic networks that form inside human brains when children learn. MacPhail applies Markov chains in the "calculus of contradiction" and publishes a paper on the subject with Wittgenstein: "Population Dynamics of Logical Atom Fields Containing Contradictions". This article attracts the attention of Turing, eventually leading to constructive interactions between Turing and Wittgenstein during World War II. Ultimately, this leads to profound changes in the development of machine learning and autonomous robots.....faster progress towards human-like artificial intelligence.

2) How/Why does homosexuality come into play, is it a major POD, or is it just an interesting anecdotal change?

In this alternative history, the personal relationship that develops between Turing and Wittgenstein is critical for their mental and physical health, allowing them both to have long and productive lives. When they become sources of support and strength for each other, they are able to begin participation in the growing movement for revision of British laws related to homosexuality.

3) For my knowledge: What correlates are there between *there* and *here* for this Althist?

I'm not sure what you are asking here; I'm guessing you want me to summarize the main differences between this alternative history and OTL. The main idea is that Turing and Wittgenstein find an alternative to the conventional computer science approach to Artificial Intelligence research that has dominated OTL. In the alternative history, Turing and Wittgenstein develop (1970's) a way to focus on machine learning through the experiences of autonomous robots; an approach only just now starting to become popular in OTL. JWSchmidt 17:13, 16 Mar 2005 (EST)

I don't know if this is what Dan was asking but for my own interest, what are the main difference between *here* and *there*, how did this union impact on society in other areas ? did some famous events happen differently due to your POD ?-- 16:20, 4 Jun 2005 (UTC)
These are all great questions. The main difference that I am most concerned with is the idea that there might have been a way to speed up the creation of human-like robots. If so, I think there would be profound effects on human society. This is a topic that has been explored extensively in the science fiction literature. In my own thinking, I would like to explore the impact of human-like robots on human learning and education. I can imagine that children who grew up with a robot companion would have interesting advantages over other people. By the time both the child and the robot attained adult human-like mental capabilities, thye would be a formidable team. About "famous events"....I assume you mean things like wars and such. In my view, for the timeline of changes in robotics that I am imagining, the major social changes (with the exception of accelerated gay rights) would be starting to happen just about now. If the gay rights movement has gotten accelerated, the world might have had a better response to the AIDS epidemic. Just maybe, reactionary rightwing politics might not have been able to exploit homophobia for political gain. In the "Cambridge Computing" timeline, children would be growing up NOW with robotic companions and starting to make their impact on the world. JWSchmidt 00:07, 5 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Alternate TL Specifics (Technology)

Moore's Law

The thing I am not grasping is the specific details that drive the already stated alternate details. For example, would it be a true statement to say Moore's Law doesn't exist in the Turing-Wittgenstein universe? It has been established that, "...Wittgenstein dies in 1968, but Turing continues their work into the age of integrated circuits..." Therefore, is it reasonable to assume that the era of MSI ICs happens in both realities in the late '60s? If so, then growth has to happen faster than Moore's Law after the late '60s.

If Moore's Law holds "there" then one would expect that software more than hardware is responsible for autonomous robots. From what's established so far in my mind this seems to be true because brute force appears not to bring about AI "there" like we've been trying "here." Would this be caused by Turing getting a new colleague after Wittgenstein dies in 1968? Or was the first autonomous robot already inevitable by the time Wittgenstein died? What advances would make it inevitable?HISTK 12:24, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

As Expected

Revision as of 20:24, 22 January 2007 (edit) (Talk).

Sooner or later, I for one expected SOME homophobic remark to be added to this thread. "moral collapse", "anti-gay cultures prevail", etc.

I must say

I must say this was a boring page.Empire1994 01:05, July 26, 2011 (UTC)

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