Can you beat the father of artificial intelligence at Monopoly?
- By Michael PeckMichael Peck is an award-winning writer specializing in defense and national security issues. He holds an MA in political science from Rutgers University.
There are currently 2,355 different versions of Monopoly, according to one estimate. So it’s no surprise that someone has turned computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing’s life into a Monopoly game, especially since Turing himself played the game.
Monopoly: The Alan Turing Edition is based upon a "hand-drawn version of Monopoly on which we know Alan Turing played over 50 years ago," according to the rules booklet. The game, which was funded by Google, is available from Bletchley Park National Codes Centre, where Turing developed the first computers and helped decipher the code of the Nazi’s supposedly unbreakable Enigma machine, significantly shortening World War II.
Those hoping for a game on cryptography will be disappointed. This is Monopoly, not a National Security Agency training simulation. The properties on the board are drawn from events in the life of Turing and the history of Bletchley Park. The tokens are the same as regular Monopoly — the hat, the dog, and so on — but instead of landing on Baltic Avenue or Marvin Gardens, they land on the Enigma Machine, The Bombe, and The Turing Test. Naturally, instead of Boardwalk and Park Place, the priciest properties are Bletchley Park and Kings College, Cambridge. Americans playing this game may find themselves pausing for tea and speaking in a posh accent.
The deck of Chance cards is funny, though probably funnier to someone familiar with Oxbridge culture. I didn’t quite get the "You Win the Walton Athletic Club Long-Distance Running Championship — Pay 50 Pounds." But I had to smile at the "You Write a Chess Program for a Computer That Does Not Exist — Collect 200 Pounds." And the "Buy a Chain to Secure Your Mug to the Radiator — Pay 50 Pounds" conjured up images of a bunch of eccentric geniuses crowded into austere wartime huts and stealing each other’s teacups.
By the way, the story is that William Newman, the son of Turing’s Bletchley Park colleague Max Newman, drew his own Monopoly board because a genuine Monopoly game during wartime would have been too expensive. When Turing heard about the game, he rushed to the Newman home. Turing played William Newman’s game once — and lost. Even genius is no substitute for a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.