Fascinating people, advanced technology, Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence has a Strong Foundation in World War Two Cryptanalysis

For more than a year I have posited that Artificial Intelligence has a strong foundation in World War II cryptanalysis. Yet, in my research I have not seen discussions of this. If I am right and can show that my posit is true it may be of little or no importance. But, it may answer not yet asked questions. There is a string that goes through three of the founders of Artificial Intelligence and a modern scientist: Alan Turing, Claude Shannon, John McCarthy, and Ron Rivest.

Alan Turing and Claude Shannon were both cryptographers and Ron Rivest is a cryptographer. Alan Turing and Claude Shannon worked together for two months during World War II. John McCarthy and Ron Rivest were both Turing award winners. Claude Shannon was at the 1956 Dartmouth Artificial Intelligence Conference founded by John McCarthy.

Additionally, Alan Turing and John McCarthy are both considered fathers of Artificial Intelligence and Claude Shannon is considered the father of Information Theory. Ron Rivest is an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the highest title that can be awarded to a professor at MIT. He is also Co-inventor of the RSA (cryptosystem) algorithm; founder of Verisign, and RSA Security. These have to do with public keys.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing was born in June 23, 1912 and Maida Vale, London, England to Julius Mathison Turing and Ethel Sara Turing. The greater part of Alan’s elementary education was done at Sherborne School which origins date back to the eighth century. His brilliance is continually acknowledged in elementary as well as undergraduate school at King’s College, Cambridge, where he was awarded first class honors in mathematics. It was there that he invented Turing machines.

Among the things that Alan Turing became famous for his work at Benchley Park and breaking the Enigma code. In September 1938, he began working part-time with the GC&CS British code breaking organization. During that same period of time, the Polish Cipher Bureau created a machine with Enigma routers and in a Warsaw meeting in July 1939 presented the British and French with the wiring of their machine. The weakness of the Polish method was it depended on an insecure procedure that the Germans were likely to and did change in May 1940.

Within a few weeks of arriving at Ashley Park, Turing specified an electromechanical system it could break the Enigma code more effectively and without the weakness of Polish bombe. The next hurdle for Turing and his team was lack of logistical support from the British Army. Alan turn wrote a letter cosigned by several of his fellow scientists requesting help from Winston Churchill. Mr. Churchill read what Turing had to say and sent one of his famous Red letters to the upper echelon of the Army. It said “ACTION THIS DAY. Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done.”

Almost immediately Turing’s group at Benchley Park was getting great support.

Alan Turing’s genius in breaking the code is credited with saving millions of lives during World War II.

But not only is Alan Turing famous for breaking the Enigma code, he is also famous for his genius in Computer Science,  and he is also known as the “Father of Artificial Intelligence.”  The following article was written by Turing and is published in the New York Times ” Computing Machinery and Intelligence ” which broaches the subject of Artificial Intelligence.

Claude E. Shannon

Claude Elwood Shannon (April 30, 1916 – February 24, 2001) was born In Petoskey, Michigan. At the age of 16 he entered the University of Michigan. Four years later, he graduated with two bachelors degrees in electrical engineering, and mathematics.

At the age of 20, he began his graduate studies in electrical engineering at MIT. While there he worked on Vannevar Bush’s differential analyzer which was an analog computer. Working on these circuits, he designed switching circuits based upon George Boole’s concepts which he became familiar with at the University of Michigan. At the age of 21, he wrote his master’s thesis, A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits. This paper pushed him forward into the leading edge of mathematicians. His work became widely known in the electrical engineering community and became the foundation of digital circuit design.

In 1941, Shannon joined Bell Laboratories to work on fire control systems and cryptography.

It was during this time that Shannon and Alan Turing met and learned from each other over a two-month period. We lost both of these mathematical geniuses way too early. Had these two men lived longer and collaborated, it is possible that we would be a full generation ahead of where we are now in both our mathematical knowledge and our standard of living.

As noted above, Shannon is known as the father of Information Theory and his work in cryptography was closely related to this. In 1945 he wrote a classified document for Bell Labs titled “A Mathematical Theory of Cryptography.” Bell Labs called him one of the greatest electrical engineering heroes of all time.

If you are interested, here is a link to Claude E. Shannon’s paper Programming a Computer for Playing Chess.

John McCarthy

John McCarthy (September 4, 1927 – October 24,2011) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. During the Great Depression, the McCarthy family had to relocate frequently until John’s father found work as an organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers in Los Angeles, California. John was unusually intelligent and graduated from Belmont high school early, entered Caltech and after a while into the Army for time, went back to Caltech and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics in 1948.

He did his initial graduate studies at Caltech and then transferred to Princeton University. He received a PhD in mathematics from Princeton in 1951.

McCarthy took appointments at Princeton and Stanford universities, and in 1955, he became an assistant professor at Dartmouth.

It was at Dartmouth College that John McCarthy wrote the famous Proposal For The Dartmouth Summer Research Project On Artificial Intelligence with Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, and Claude E. Shannon. This is known as the breakthrough academic study and birth of Artificial Intelligence.

Along with Alan Turing, John McCarthy is known as the father of Artificial Intelligence. He also went on to invent several programming languages.  There will be at least another blog post about John McCarthy.

Ron Rivest

Ron Rivest (May 6, 1947 –  ) was born in Schenectady, New York. He graduated from Niskayuna High School, New York in 1965. Dr. Rivest earned a Bachelors Degree in Mathematics from Yale University in 1969, and received a PhD degree in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1974.

He is a member of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in the Theory of Computation Group, and a founder of its Cryptography and Information Security Group.

Additionally, he is also a founder of RSA Data Security, VeriSign, and Peppercoin.

Ron Rivest has many, many honors and awards. Not the least of which is a Turing Award. It is as if he is a direct descendant of Alan Turing himself. They both have been deeply interested and involved in cryptography and Artificial Intelligence.


A special announcement page on MIT’s website, said:

Ron Rivest named Institute Professor – one of only 23 in MIT history

It went on to say

CSAIL researcher Ron Rivest is one of three faculty members to be named an MIT Institute Professor. He is one of 13 at MIT, along with 10 Institute Professors emeriti. Their new appointments are effective July 1, making them the first faculty members to be named Institute Professors since 2008.

It doesn’t get any more exclusive than that.