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GCHQ’s director’s Turing speech – a research team manual?

Just read the (4 Oct 2012) speech about Alan Turing, given by Iain Lobban, Director GCHQ, at the University of Leeds.

Fantastic stuff in there. Here are some excerpts.

On learning to solve problems

“… [Turing] reported to Bletchley Park as agreed and immediately started working with [Dilly] Knox [expert on the Enigma cypher …]. Knox’s influence on Turing at this time is immense. The older veteran cryptanalyst shared everything he knew about Enigma with Turing, who eventually used this knowledge to write the first four chapters of his treatise on Enigma […]

“…[Turing] was happy to learn from Dilly Knox, happy to use that knowledge as the foundation for what he would develop subsequently, and was diligent in recording what he had learned and how he developed that into new areas so that others could profit from his knowledge just as he had profited from that of Knox.”

Knox could only take Turing so far and his quest for experience-based understanding of the cryptanalysis of Enigma took Turing to France in January 1940…”

Team work

There are lots of different ways in which people can work as part of a team.  Turing’s way was to take in other people’s ideas, develop and build on them, and then pass the product on to other people to be the foundation for the next stage.  He took the idea of electromechanical processing of Enigma messages from the Poles but developed their idea into something radically different.  When Welchman later enhanced the Bombe with his diagonal board, Turing was among the first to congratulate him on this major improvement.  Turing was part of the team, and shared in the success of the team.”

Respecting diversity

“I strongly believe a Sigint agency needs the widest range of skills possible if it is to be successful, and to deny itself talent just because the person with the talent doesn’t conform to a social stereotype is to starve itself of what it needs to thrive.”

“I don’t want to pretend that GCHQ was an organisation with twenty-first century values in the twentieth century, but it was at the most tolerant end of the cultural spectrum.  In an organisation which valued the skills and characteristics that difference can bring, Turing’s homosexuality was less of a talking point than his insights into the complex crypt problems of the day.  When he was put on trial, Hugh Alexander, the Head of Cryptanalysis at GCHQ went, with official approval, to speak as a character witness on his behalf, saying in court that Turing was a national asset.”

Exploiting serendipity

“Geoffrey Tandy was posted to Bletchley by the Admiralty in a spirit of helpfulness: his posting officer had understood him to be an expert in cryptograms, a word still used in the Admiralty at that time to mean messages signalled in code.  In fact he was an expert in cryptogams: non-flowering plants like ferns, mosses and seaweeds.  But while this knowledge might not have appeared to be of much use, Tandy became expert in German naval Enigma and because of his work on seaweed was able to provide unique advice on the preservation of cryptologic documents rescued from the sea.”

The role of management

“Part of my job is to continue to foster that atmosphere: to attract the very best people and harness their talents, and not allow preconceptions and stereotypes to stifle innovation and agility.”

Mentally sloppy freethinkers…

“Mentally sloppy freethinkers tend to be attracted to radical proposals, just because such proposals are radical. They don’t focus much on the detailed arguments, but instead substitute simple arguments based on broad crude analogies, more suited to their style of thinking. And they usually make sure to insinuate that opposition to the idea is mainly from excess conformity or entrenched interests. Others hear such sloppy arguments, reject them, and then reject the idea as well.”

—Robin Hanson, in Overcoming Bias

Methodology is the last refuge of scoundrels

“Cognitive science is all about rising above methodology and getting to a conceptual/theoretical level at which there is much more in common. Where there has been success, this ascension has been achieved. Where there has been failure it has been a failure to aspire to anything above methodology. Social science discipline divisions are dominated by methodology—that is why cognitive science happened. To adapt Dr. Johnson’s aphorism, methodology is the last refuge of scoundrels.”

– Keith Stenning (2012, p. 414). To naturalize or not to naturalize? An issue for cognitive science as well as anthropology. Topics in Cognitive Science, 4(3), 413–419.

Education happens between individuals

“At the most fundamental level, education happens between individuals — a personal connection, however long or short, between mentor and student. Whether it’s personally answering a question raised in class, spending twenty minutes working through a tricky idea in office hours, or spending years of close collaboration in a PhD mentorship relationship, the human connection matters to both sides. It resonates at levels far deeper than the mere conveyance of information — it teaches us how to be social together and sets role models of what it is to perform in a field, to think rigorously, to be professional, and to be intellectually mature.”

– Terran Lane, On Leaving Academia

Nagel on arousal and meaning

“Suppose a man and a woman, whom we may call Romeo and Juliet, are at opposite ends of a cocktail lounge, with many mirrors on the walls which permit unobserved observation, and even mutual unobserved observation. Each of them is sipping a martini and studying other people in the mirrors. At some point Romeo notices Juliet. He is moved, somehow, by the softness of her hair and the diffidence with which she sips her martini, and this arouses him sexually. […] Romeo senses Juliet, rather than merely noticing her. At this stage he is aroused by an unaroused object, so he is more in the sexual grip of his body than she of hers.

“Let us suppose, however, that Juliet now senses Romeo in another mirror on the opposite wall, though neither of them yet knows that he is seen by the other (the mirror angles provide three-quarter views). Romeo then begins to notice in Juliet the subtle signs of sexual arousal: heavy-lidded stare, dilating pupils, faint flush, et cetera. This of course renders her much more bodily, and he not only notices but senses this as well. His arousal is nevertheless still solitary. But now, cleverly calculating the line of her stare without actually looking her in the eyes, he realizes that it is directed at him through the mirror on the opposite wall. That is, he notices, and moreover senses, Juliet sensing him. This is definitely a new development, for it gives him a sense of embodiment not only through his own reactions but through the eyes and reactions of another. Moreover, it is separable from the initial sensing of Juliet; for sexual arousal might begin with a person’s sensing that he is sensed and being assailed by the perception of the other person’s desire rather than merely by the perception of the person.

“But there is a further step. Let us suppose that Juliet, who is a little slower than Romeo, now senses that he senses her. This puts Romeo in a position to notice, and be aroused by, her arousal at being sensed by him. He senses that she senses that he senses her. This is still another level of arousal, for he becomes conscious of his sexuality through his awareness of its effect on her and of her awareness that this effect is due to him. […]”

“Another example of such reflexive mutual recognition is to be found in the phenomenon of meaning, which appears to involve an intention to produce a belief or other effect in another by bringing about his recognition of one’s intention to produce that effect. (That result is due to H. P. Grice, whose position I shall not attempt to reproduce in detail.) Sex has a related structure: it involves a desire that one’s partner be aroused by the recognition of one’s desire that he or she be aroused.”

– Nagel, T. (1969, pp. 10-11) [Sexual Perversion. The Journal of Philosophy, 66, 5-17].

CBT – a flavour of psychodynamic therapy but with an almost-cognitive perspective explanation?

Rosner (2012) looks fun indeed. Here’s how it starts:

“1961 and 1962 were momentous years for Aaron T. Beck. They were the years he made a decisive break with his psychoanalytic past. He closed down his large psychoanalytic research project on depression, put to rest his application for membership in the American Psychoanalytic Association that had been rejected twice, and turned his back on the cornerstone of psychoanalytic theory, the unconscious. He took a sabbatical from the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania following a destructive department-wide battle over the future of psychoanalysis in psychiatry.

But then… here’s a letter Beck wrote to John Bowlby in 1981:

“It might be a point of curiosity therefore for you to know that my psychiatric training was completely and exclusively psychoanalytic… I would consider my theoretical work as derivative from ego psychology rather than from cognitive psychology or learning theory. At the present time in fact I am trying to reformulate many of the basic psychoanalytic concepts into cognitive terms (Beck, A. T., personal collection, July 29, 1981).”

Reference

Rosner, R. I. (2012). Aaron T. Beck’s drawings and the psychoanalytic origins story of cognitive therapy. History of Psychology, 15, 1-18.

Psychoanalytic history

“Psychoanalysis is very different [from psychology], and very peculiar. One might even suggest […] that the structure of psychoanalytic history is much more like the history of a religious sect […]. Like a religion, there was a founding father who had a revelation (the existence of the subconscious); he struggled to have the truth of this revelation recognised by a hostile world, and gradually gathered around him a group of followers. […] A canon of set (scared) texts emerged, mostly penned by (or attributed to) the founder and studied continuously down the generations.”

— Stephen Frosh (2012, pp. 16–17), A brief introduction to psychoanalytic theory