We need Elon Musk much more than he needs us

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Heroes are not created equal. Most people recognize the name Sully Sullenberger, but far fewer can tell you what Alan Turing did during World War II.

Fewer still could tell you that Turing was chemically castrated because he was gay, and committed suicide shortly thereafter. But thanks for bringing one of the most horrifying wars in history to an abrupt end, I guess?

Society isn’t always kind to its heroes. We ask for an ill-defined yet idealized sort of perfection, and when our heroes fall short, we make sure they fall twice as hard.

Some might write this phenomenon off as a minor inconvenience for the rich, successful or famous, but times have changed. The human costs of war pale in comparison to the battles humanity will face in the years to come.

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The Woman Who Smashed Codes: The Untold Story of Cryptography Pioneer Elizebeth Friedman

 

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How an unsung heroine established a new field of science and helped defeat the Nazis with pencil, paper, and perseverance.

While computing pioneer Alan Turing was breaking Nazi communication in England, eleven thousand women, unbeknownst to their contemporaries and to most of us who constitute their posterity, were breaking enemy code in America — unsung heroines who helped defeat the Nazis and win WWII.

Among them was American cryptography pioneer Elizebeth Friedman (August 26, 1892–October 31, 1980). The subject of Jason Fagone’s excellent biography The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies (public library), Friedman triumphed over at least three Enigma machines and cracked dozens of different radio circuits to decipher more than four thousand Nazi messages that saved innumerable lives, only to have J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI take credit for her invisible, instrumental work.

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