• Wed. Aug 4th, 2021


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Poem: ‘Turing and the Apple’

Edited by Dava Sobel

Nothing’s wholly certain. A half

apple lay beside the bed, bites

taken out of it, when his corpse

was found—though no one really tried

to ascertain if it contained

cyanide. After he had seen

Snow White, off and on he would chant

the haggish queen’s vile couplet. Did

he dip the apple in the brew

and let the Sleeping Death seep through?

And did it make his dreams come true?

Was he the smartest in the land?

What determines when a machine

must stop? Why is a program bound

to crash? Or a person? Was some

forgetful prince supposed to drop

by, give him the reviving kiss,

and start the soap opera up

again, absent forced estrogen?

Or was his being too at odds

with everything the problem? What

went amiss in this fairy tale?

Was the steeped fruit Newton’s or Eve’s?

Did he conceive himself beyond

skin and bone? Did he want to be

quantum-mechanically reborn

in the new form of other flesh?

Foresee a castle in the sky

for happy-ever-aftering?

His life of paradox remains

a core enigma. There’s no test

to disambiguate the dead

and sort out accident from will,

sheer inevitability

from Russian-roulette randomness,

much less a computer to plumb

the strange-looped onion depths of mind

and crack its tangled cryptograms.

We’d have the truth come absolute,

data bereft of ifs, but it’s

adrift, mute, undecidable,

lost in the laptop cenotaph.