“Sometimes it’s the very people who nobody imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine.” -The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game tells the tale of Alan Turing, the mathematician who broke the Nazi’s ‘impenetrable’ Enigma machine that led to the end of World War II. The machine Turing built is the design from which computers are modeled today.
Revealing What’s Hidden
The movie discusses cryptography, where secret messages are decoded. Alan and his childhood crush, Christopher, communicated by cryptography. This cemented Alan’s curiosity for cryptography and his pursuit of code breaking later in life.
Alan’s machine reveals the hidden codes from the Nazi regime, enabling them to win the war. The Nazi regime was fueled by hatred, and while Turing broke their secret codes, he simultaneously had to keep the secret of his own sexuality. At the time, there were unjust laws against homosexuality. This is a reminder that the law is not always just; similarly, Nazis had unjust laws that relied on antisemitism and hatred which bred violence and fueled a genocide. While Turing fought Nazism by breaking Enigma, he still was in a battle with Britain’s unjust laws on sexuality.
A theme of the film is the limitlessness of possibilities. Enigma has so many possibilities that it would be impossible for a human to calculate all of them each day. By creating a machine to decode the messages, it becomes possible for them to win the war.
Turing is motivated by the quote: “sometimes it’s the very people who nobody imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine.” By the courage of Turing’s convictions, he is able to do the unimaginable to defeat the hate-fueled regime of the Nazis.
Overcome with the notion that machines can think, Turing reminds us of the ambiguity of consciousness. He believes that even though a machine does not ‘think’ like a human, it still thinks. He centered some of his academic work around this.
Although, less well-known, Turing studied chemistry and theorized a procedure from removing salt from salt-water. This theory is being looked at today and has resurfaced as a possibility in the field of chemistry.
The turning point of the movie is when Turing is presented with the idea of repetitious phrases as a key in decoding the Nazi messages. This turning point is unique to humanity and is cultural. The cultural enacting of the repeated words and phrases that Turing and his team use to decode the messages are distinctively human.
Later in his life, Turing clings to his machine as one would with a loved one. He has named the machine after his profound childhood crush. When you think about it, the machine seems to be more than a machine, but a legacy. Turing’s legacy of computing dominates our daily lives in the 21st century, yet was merely an advanced luxury or defense system in their time. Turing’s ability to feel for his machine becomes more important in the greater lesson of the movie about discrimination and dehumanization.
Turing describes the way machines think as different from humans, and proposes whether or not that means they think at all. This is powerful when considering dehumanization of classes of people and discrimination of groups of people based an a categorical difference. Turing is persecuted by the law for having a different sexual preference, and this leads him to commit suicide. Would Turing have taken his own life if his right to love whomever he wanted to love were respected? We may have differences, but our humanity is not compromised due to such differences. This is the most valuable lesson we can learn about difference and humanization. This valuable lesson can be gained from looking at the life, work, and legacy of Alan Turing. It was his humanity that brought us to the machine era. It was his love that defeated hate. We are called to do the same in our lives: every single day, for ourselves and others.