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Alan Turing (2) vs. Yoko Ono

For yesterday‘s match, I’ll have to go with Ed Wood. Best argument came from Nick:

I’d rather watch him talk than watch one of his movies.

And, in all seriousness, I think Wood’s talk would be better. Schlafly must’ve given thousands of speeches by now, and I think whatever she has to say would just be boring. Either she’d go with her usual material or she’d try to rile up the liberal New York audience; either way, who cares? With Ed, though, anything could happen.

Some commenters wanted Schlafly on the grounds that it would be fun to see all the protestors. But that doesn’t really seem so interesting to me either. So Ed Wood it is, and he’ll be up against the winner of today’s matchup.

It’s Alan Turing (seeded #2 in the Philosophers category) vs. Yoko Ono (unseeded Religious Leader).

For a statistics audience, I guess Turing’s got this one pretty much locked up. I don’t really see how Yoko has a chance at all—she’s a bigger underdog than Buster Douglas. The codebreaker can save his energy for the next round.

P.S. As always, here’s the background, and here are the rules.


  1. Anonymous says:


    I’d go up to her after the seminar and give her a list of all the bands I hate, and ask her if she could break them up too.

    • Jameson says:

      It’s really not Yoko’s fault. Yes, she was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But one way or another it was going to happen anyway. And some part of the “blame Yoko” story is based in misogyny and even racism.

  2. zbicyclist says:


    All math aside, would he have guessed at the sea change in attitudes toward homosexuality in Britain? Would he have guessed a later prime minister would apologize, and the Queen would “pardon” him? Would he feel vindication, or a terrible sense of regret?

    (I put “pardon” in quotes, because it always seems odd to pardon people for things they never should have been prosecuted for in the first place, although I know that’s technically how it’s done.)

    Plus, Yoko might just give a lecture where she screamed for an hour.

    • Andrew says:


      I’m not disagreeing with you, but I think it’s a mistake to identify Turing with his sexual preference. There are millions of gay people out there but only one Alan Turing.

      • Dan Simpson says:

        True, but only one has a statue in a Manchester park of them sitting on a bench with an apple in his hand….

        But more seriously, Alan Turing has received an official pardon and apology for the way that the society at the time marginalised him (notably, other gay men have not). Yoko Ono has not received an apology for the frequent (and, from this thread, continuing) abuse she has suffered for being a strong woman, Japanese, and not John Lennon. She has continued with grace and generousity throughout her life and has championed other artists.

        I’m also going to say that she’s probably a better singer than Alan Turing.

        • Dan Simpson says:

          And while it’s not his fault, the last Turing exhibition I saw massively overstated his contributions to certain fields or the importance of these contributions. The tendency to position him as the “gay messiah” of computing/stats/maths is really unfortunate.

          The only downside to Ono as far as I can see, is that she would be a less interesting speaker than Kusama, who, as well as just being fascinating and an amazing artist, has a lovely tendency to throw shade at people like Joseph Cornell in interviews.

  3. Daniel says:

    Alan Turing broke the Enigma code. Yoko Ono broke-up the Beatles. Both impressive, historic accomplishments, but Turning had a whole team of cryptography bosses working alongside him, while Yoko was going it alone. And who would give a more interesting seminar? What could Turing tell us about cryto/stat/AI that we don’t already know? As other commenters have pointed out, Yoko would put on a much better show.

    • Christian Hennig says:

      I’ve read the “what could he tell us what we don’t already know”-argument already several times in this competition. Usually the people who originally came up with something important have deep and special ideas about it that are later forgotten or perverted. I trust such personalities to tell me something worth listening to that I don’t know already night and day.

      Having said that, Yoko Ono’s performances may be hit and miss so it would be a risk having her but she is an impressive woman, very productive and intelligent, and was in the middle of so many controversies involving so many more interesting people that I’d be very keen of having both of them, more than a number of previous winners. Turing it is, very narrowly, because of the risk that Yoko is in the mood to make it a pain for the audience.

  4. Brad says:

    Hmm. Reserved, famously shy Brit of few words vs. loud, ostentatious and absurd woman with strong opinions about everything? I think Yoko would actually be a more engaging seminar speaker.

  5. Bill Jefferys says:

    Turing. I met Yoko around 1960 (she wouldn’t remember) and don’t need to listen to her again.

  6. Martha says:

    Turing. There’s so he could talk about that would be interesting: working at Bletchley Park; just living in England during WWII; even a scholarly talk about his work in mathematical biology; …

  7. Xi'an says:

    Turing is a no-brainer. He could talk about a zillion things, classified and unclassifed. And let us know whether or not he considered himself a Bayesian!

    • Ethan Bolker says:

      If this group invited Turing he’d know he could talk about serious statistics – before, during and after Bletchley. I wonder what he’d make of Stan.

    • Anonymous says:

      He certainly wasn’t anti-Bayesian, although I’ve personally not seen anything of his (or stuff he did with I.J.Good) that looked like Savage style subjective Bayes. It would be interesting if he did.

      The stuff I’ve seen utilized sum/product rule based derivations and casually assigned probabilities to hypothesis. Whenever someone does that rather than inventing ad-hoc intuitive techniques they’ll strongly resemble Jaynes style Bayesian-ism almost no matter what.

  8. Shecky R says:

    If they get to bring their husbands along then I vote for Yoko, but if not, then Alan gets my vote.

  9. James says:

    Turing. Yoko’s a straight-up tomato can here. Not even in the consolation round, I’m afraid.

  10. Jonathan (another one) says:

    Turing, though I realize that there’s no finite algorithm to tell me if the seminar would end.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yule, Keynes, Frank Ramsey, Kullback, Koopman, Poincare, Mark Kac.

    Physicists and Russians both get short changed it seems like. Many results first done by physicists or Russian mathematicians often are attributed to later statisticians. So those are a couple of places to look for unsung heros of statistics.

  12. Chip Lynch says:

    Turing for a million reasons, plus this one: he died in 1954… so he hasn’t really anything on a topic that he effectively created (computing) that has changed society more than anything in that time period. What an amazing perspective he could bring! Yoko, on the other hand, while I wouldn’t care to hear her speak in any case, wouldn’t have much new or interesting to say.

  13. Conor says:

    There are a lot of people here saying Yoko would put on a better show. I have seen Yoko live. It was boring and terrible. Granted, I haven’t seen Turing in person, but it would be hard to be worse than Yoko was.

  14. Tom says:

    Turing’s work shortened WW2 by 2-4 years saving god only knows how many lives – that is some seriously applied maths. Ono recorded ‘Give Peace a Chance’ – Turing actually made it happen, and I would love to hear that seminar. Turing by a country mile.

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