The First Five Kilobytes are the Hardest: Alan Turing, John von Neumann, and the Origins of the Digital Universe at the IAS
The history of digital computing can be divided into an Old Testament whose prophets, led by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, supplied the logic, and a New Testament whose prophets, led by John von Neumann, built the machines. Alan Turing, whose “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem” was published shortly after his arrival in Princeton as a twenty-four-year-old graduate student in October 1936, formed the bridge between the two. In this talk, George Dyson, a Director’s Visitor in 2002–03 and the author of Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (Pantheon, 2012), discusses the role of the Institute's Electronic Computer Project as modern stored-program computers were developed after WWII. Turing’s one-dimensional model of universal computation led directly to von Neumann’s two-dimensional implementation, and the world has never been the same since.
Artist Paul Hodgson was a Director's Visitor at the Institute in 2010. In a Friends Forum, he discussed the "difficulties in making a judgement and dubtfulness in choosing one thing over another," that underlie his current practice and emerge "both in the way that I fabricate the work, and the images that I choose to present."
Having assisted in the postwar transitions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, a Director's Visitor at the Institute in 2006-08, spoke in 2007 about the circumstances that led to the current situations in Afghanistan and Iraq. He examined the recent history of both countries and offered his perspective on the actions and non-actions that led to the present crises.