[Humanist] 23.603 why chess for AI

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jan 28 06:30:45 CET 2010


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 603.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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  [1]   From:    Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>                  (198)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.600 why chess for AI

  [2]   From:    Wendell Piez <wapiez at mulberrytech.com>                    (41)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.600 why chess for AI


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2010 10:17:47 +0000
        From: Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.600 why chess for AI
        In-Reply-To: <20100127082646.1E17548BD0 at woodward.joyent.us>


Chess also has a lot in common with boxing - they both feature a limited
range of moves but can involve an almost infinite range of strategies and
combinations. Both can take years of training and still yield no real
mastery. Both possess and often destroy their exponents. And both are
impossible for a computer (or a robot) to properly emulate, precisely
because they depend so much on human psychology, imprecision and nuance.

With this in mind, 'Chess Boxing' seems less an eccentric passtime, and more
like kicking computers when they're down..




--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2010 11:14:16 -0500
        From: Wendell Piez <wapiez at mulberrytech.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.600 why chess for AI
        In-Reply-To: <20100127082646.1E17548BD0 at woodward.joyent.us>

Willard and HUMANIST:

At 03:26 AM 1/27/2010, James wrote:
>There's a story, perhaps apocryphal, about the invention of a
>chess-playing "mechanical man" who was pitted against Napoleon.
>Napoleon exposed the robot as a fraud by repeatedly making illegal
>moves until the midget hiding inside got angry and swept the pieces
>off of the board.  At any rate, game playing as a problem for AI may
>predate the 20thC.  It may predate the 19thC.

This is a great story. Apart from whether it's true, part of the 
reason it's so compelling is that it retells the story of Alexander 
and the Gordian Knot.

As conquerors, both Napoleon and Alexander knew the way to win the 
game was to rewrite its rules.

One way of putting it is that both Alexander and Napoleon refused to 
be automata, accepting the rules as given. By this reasoning -- 
turning Shannon on his head -- chess playing, which Napoleon refused 
to do, may not be a form of intelligence so much as a form of its sublimation.

Of course, having cut the knot -- and conquered Asia -- Alexander 
found he held a rope that could no longer bind. And so his empire did 
not hold together. The same might arguably be said of Napoleon.

"Intelligence" perhaps means to take initiative within a situation 
neither perfectly deterministic, nor perfectly entropic, a world of 
matter and energy mixed. The machine is a structure and relates to 
structure; as such, it is a means of harnessing or channeling energy, 
but not, by itself, a creative force, destroying old orders and 
creating new ones. So far at least, no machine has broken the rules 
by which it was made -- even while its makers and users have. Or has it?

It's interesting that while Napoleon exposed the chess-playing 
mechanism as a fraud, he did so by revealing that it was, in fact, 
intelligent -- that it understood what was going on.

Cheers,
Wendell

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