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CACM Reports: The Enduring Power of Turing's Intelligent Machines

March Issue Reports on New Approaches to Cybersecurity, the Wisdom of Crowds for Problem-Solving, and Next-Generation GPS Navigation Systems

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK – February 22, 2012  –  As we approach the 100th anniversary of computing legend Alan Turing's birth, speculation abounds on the depth of impact that his universal machine has made.  In the March Communications of the ACM (CACM) cover story, University of Leeds professor S. Barry Cooper examines the challenges to the continued primacy of Turing’s intelligent machine as a model for computation.  Cooper, who chairs the European Turing Centenary Advisory Committee, evaluates four viewpoints about the vulnerability of Turing’s standard model.  He concludes that the demise of Turing’s computational model is still a long way off.  Also in this issue, CACM Editor-in-Chief Moshe Y. Vardi reviews a recent conference that addressed the question “What is an algorithm?”   Vardi warns against conflating an algorithm with a Turing machine as is often assumed, and notes that the aim of Turing’s 1936 seminal paper on computable numbers was to define computability, not algorithms.

             Communications, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format.

            Also in this issue:

  •       Poul-Henning Kamp ponders the hyperdimensional tar pit.   Using the rule of thumb provided by an elder colleague for estimating when he would have finished a task properly, he makes a guess, doubles the number, and then moves to the next larger unit of time.  He also analyzes Frederick Brooks’ rule about the time it takes to deliver programs, programming products, and programming systems.
  •       In “A Comparative Study of Cyberattacks,” the authors assess the state of international collaboration and legal harmonization for worldwide cybersecurity.  They suggest four steps for national governments to consider, including measurement, responsibility, collaboration, and constitutional conflict to address the increasing sophistication and coordination of hackers across international boundaries.
  •       Science and technology writer Neil Savage assesses the wisdom of crowds to harness human skills for solving scientific problems.  He describes a University of Washington project using online games to discover the structure of a protein that helps the human immunodeficiency virus multiply, noting that these challenges are currently beyond the capability of computers to solve.
  •       Researchers from National Taipei University and National Central University in Taiwan address the inadequacy of conventional global positioning system navigation.  They present next-generation GPS navigation systems that rely on live-view navigation, and predict it will become the standardized interface on the windshield of each car in the next century.
  •       In “Policing the Future,” author Samuel Greengard explains predictive policing—how computer programs and new mathematical algorithms are helping law-enforcement agencies better predict when and where crimes will occur.
  •       A veteran human-computer interaction researcher, Vassilis Kostakos of the University of Oulu, Finland, relates his recent experience as a military recruit.  He concludes that military training methods, which involve diverse groups, can be applied to more effectively teach computer users. 
  •       Blog@CACM blogger Bertrand Meyer, chief architect of Eiffel Software, presents data on the computer and programming knowledge of two groups of novice computer science students.


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About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.