As a key figure during World War II and a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, my work in cryptanalysis and the development of early computing machines played a critical role in shaping the modern world. In this account, I will delve into my efforts and achievements during the war and explain how these experiences contributed to my status as the "father of AI."
When World War II erupted in 1939, the German military relied heavily on a sophisticated encryption system known as the Enigma machine to secure their communications. The Enigma machine was an electromechanical rotor cipher device that transposed plaintext messages into seemingly indecipherable ciphertext. With billions of possible combinations, breaking the Enigma code was considered a monumental challenge.
Recognizing the strategic importance of decrypting German communications, the British government established the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. In September 1939, I joined a team of talented mathematicians, linguists, and engineers at Bletchley Park, where our mission was to break the Enigma cipher and other encrypted Axis communications.
Upon my arrival at Bletchley Park, I was assigned to work on the cryptanalysis of the Enigma cipher under the leadership of Dilly Knox. Early efforts to crack the Enigma code relied on the Polish Cipher Bureau's achievements, which had developed a method known as the "bomba kryptologiczna" or "cryptologic bomb" before the war. However, the Germans had made significant modifications to the Enigma machine, rendering the Polish techniques insufficient for breaking the more advanced encryption.
In response to these challenges, I developed a new, more efficient technique for breaking the Enigma cipher. Drawing on my expertise in mathematical logic and computation, I devised an electromechanical machine called the "Bombe" that significantly expedited the decryption process.
The Bombe was designed to exploit a crucial flaw in the Enigma's encryption algorithm. By systematically testing possible rotor settings, the Bombe could identify the correct settings that would decrypt a given ciphertext, revealing the original plaintext message. This process relied on a set of assumptions about the content of the original message, which I referred to as "cribs." By iteratively refining these cribs, my colleagues and I were able to decode an increasing number of Enigma-encrypted messages.
The success of the Bombe relied not only on my theoretical understanding of computation and logic but also on the skillful engineering and collaboration of a dedicated team at Bletchley Park. Over time, the Bombe was refined and scaled up, with dozens of machines operating in parallel to decipher an ever-growing volume of intercepted Axis communications.
Throughout the war, I continued to contribute to various aspects of cryptanalysis and intelligence work at Bletchley Park. In addition to my efforts on the Enigma cipher, I collaborated with other talented codebreakers to develop new techniques for tackling other encryption systems, such as the Lorenz cipher used by the German high command.
My work at Bletchley Park had a profound impact on the course of World War II. By breaking the Enigma code and other encrypted communications, the Allies gained access to invaluable intelligence that informed strategic decision-making and military operations. Historians estimate that the work of Bletchley Park codebreakers may have shortened the war by as much as two years, saving countless lives in the process.
The experience of working on the Bombe and other codebreaking efforts at Bletchley Park would have lasting implications for my career and the development of artificial intelligence. The design and construction of the Bombe demonstrated the potential of electromechanical machines to perform complex calculations and solve problems that were once thought to be the exclusive domain of human intelligence.