Monopoly started out as a game to protest the worst predatory monopolists
Q. Have you ever played the board game Monopoly? Did you know that it was originally patented in 1904 with the title “Landlord’s Game” and had two very different sets of rules? And it was created by a woman.
A. Elizabeth Magie “actually designed the game as a protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller,” says Mary Pilon in “A Different Point of View,” published by the National Women’s History Museum. At a time when poverty and squalor were rampant in the urban centers of the United States, Magie drew inspiration from “Progress and Poverty,” written by economist Henry George, who advanced the idea of a “land value tax” that taxed only land as a way to help shift the tax burden to wealthy landlords. So Magie created two sets of rules for her game: “an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and dominate opponents.”
It was this second set that took hold, becoming a folk favourite among Northeastern intellectuals, some elite college campuses, and even an Atlantic City Quaker community that added its neighbourhood properties to the board and introduced modifications to make the game easier to play. It was a version of this Quaker game that Charles Darrow, the long-credited “inventor” of Monopoly, played and eventually sold to Parker Brothers. Not long after the deal with Darrow, the company purchased Magie’s Landlord Game patent and two more of her game designs.
Q. How have studies of social networks helped identify areas of gender inequality in the world?
A. Looking at the anonymized data of 1.4 billion Facebook users in 217 countries and regions, researchers calculated the proportion of women and men ages 13-65, says Matthew Hutson in “Scientific American” magazine. They found that certain countries, such as Afghanistan, had low female-tomale usage ratios, and they deemed this the “Facebook gender divide.” Bangladesh, Chad, South Sudan and Yemen also had unusually large Facebook gender divides.
When the team analyzed World Economic Forum data on countries’ gender equality in terms of education, economic opportunity and health, they further discovered that “the smaller a country’s Facebook gender divide in 2015, the more economic gender equality increased the following year. Moreover, a particularly strong link emerged between the Facebook gender divide and educational inequality.
As David Garcia, the study’s lead author, concluded: “Facebook data could help policy makers estimate gender inequality in poor countries and could track its evolution on a daily basis.”
Q. Artificial intelligence is in the business of cloning. How so?
A. Voice cloning technology has improved rapidly in recent years, with neural networks now able to mimic someone’s voice with less than a minute’s worth of speech, says Edd Gent in “New Scientist” magazine. At China’s search engine giant Baidu, researchers have developed software capable of synthesizing a copy of a voice based solely on hearing snatches of the original. “The best version needed 100 snippets, each no more than five seconds long… But one trained on just 10 snippets performed well enough to dupe a voice recognition system more than 95% of the time, and human evaluators gave it 3.16 out of 4 for mimicry.”
The potential for abuse is obvious, since “most voice authentication systems — used to secure everything from banking services to smartphones — can be fooled….” But “the technology could also create digital duplicate voices for people who have lost the ability to talk,” researchers say. And digital assistants, video game characters or automatic speech translation services could also be personalized.