Alan Turing and the other theory of computing and can a machine be conscious?

Speakers: Lenore Blum (Carnegie Mellon University, USA); Manuel Blum (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

Date: 18 September 2017

Time: 12:00 – 15:30

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Two acclaimed US researchers visit the Turing for a one off opportunity to discuss Alan Turing’s work in the “other theory of computing” and consciousness.

Lenore Blum


Most logicians and theoretical computer scientists are familiar with Alan Turing’s 1936 seminal paper setting the stage for the foundational (discrete) theory of computation. Most however remain unaware of Turing’s 1948 seminal paper which introduces the notion of condition, setting the stage for a natural theory of complexity for the “other theory of computation.”

Computational mathematics, the “other theory of computation,” emanates from the classical tradition of numerical analysis, equation solving and the continuous mathematics of calculus.

This talk will recognize Alan Turing’s work in the foundations of numerical computation (in particular, his 1948 paper “Rounding-Off Errors in Matrix Processes”), its influence in complexity theory today, and how it provides a unifying concept for the two major traditions of the Theory of Computation.

It is based on a plenary talk given on the eve of Turing’s 100th birthday in June 2012 at the Turing Centenary Conference at the University of Cambridge.


Lenore Blum (PhD, MIT) is distinguished career professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and Founding Director of Project Olympus, an innovation center bridging the gap between cutting-edge university research/innovation and economy-promoting commercialization. Project Olympus has been catalytic in the Pittsburgh renaissance and is a good example of Blum’s determination to make a real difference in the academic community and the world beyond.

Lenore is internationally recognized for her work in increasing the participation of girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. She was a founder of the Association for Women in Mathematics and recipient of  the US Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. At Carnegie Mellon, Lenore founded the Women@SCS program, where women comprise almost half of new majors in computer science.

Lenore’s research, from her early work in model theory and differential fields (logic and algebra) to her more recent work in developing a theory of computation and complexity over the real numbers (mathematics and computer science), has focused on merging seemingly unrelated areas. The latter work, founding a theory of computation and complexity over continuous domains, forms a theoretical basis for scientific computation.

On the eve of Alan Turing’s 100th birthday in June 2012, she was plenary speaker at the Turing Centenary Celebration at the University of Cambridge, England, demonstrating how a lesser known Turing paper is fundamental to this theory.

Lenore is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an Inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

Manuel Blum



Thanks to major advances in neuroscience, we are on the brink of a scientific understanding of how the brain achieves consciousness.   This talk will describe neuroscientist Bernard Baars’s Global Workspace Model (GWM) of the brain and propose a formal Turing-Machine-like computational model inspired by it for understanding consciousness.  One of several consequences of this Model is the possibility of free will in a completely deterministic world.


Manuel Blum, a Bruce Nelson University Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, is a pioneer in the field of theoretical computer science and winner of the 1995 Turing Award in recognition of his contributions to the foundations of computational complexity theory and its applications to cryptography and program checking, a mathematical approach to writing programs that check their work.

He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and while studying electrical engineering, pursued a desire to understand thinking and brains by working in the neurophysiology laboratory of Dr. Warren S. McCulloch and Walter Pitts. He then concentrated on mathematical logic and recursion theory following the insight it offered on brains and thinking.

Blum has supervised the theses of 35 doctoral students who now pepper almost every major computer science department in the country. The many ground-breaking areas of theoretical computer science chartered by his academic descendants are legend. Three of his PhD students are also Turing Award winners.