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Chess Improves Machines and Humans Alike 163

erick99 writes "Chess provides a window into some more arcane philosophical matters. The remainder of this article will focus on two difficult, and interrelated, questions. The first has to do with the nature of reality; the second is about the prospects for human and artificial intelligence in grappling with reality. In both cases, the search for an answer leads through a board game with 32 pieces and 64 squares."
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Chess Improves Machines and Humans Alike

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  • Vulcan science (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) * on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:01PM (#8820816) Journal

    The article has little to do with the game of chess, it is a philosophical piece (it strikes me that invoking religion in a philosophical debate is a bit like invoking Hitler in any other argument...). It's a bit thin too - saying that you can use the same word to describe different things doesn't imply any necessary connection between those things; it could mean we interpret the word based on its context...

    I have little time for philosophy: the endless soul-searching and argument over subtle nuance seems pretty meaningless - you can't root an argument in reality when you're debating the existence of reality! Accept that and move on. I happen to agree with Popper about falsifiability, but that's just an opinion...

    Perhaps we ought to just accept the universe does exist, then perhaps we can start to do something useful rather than pursue ultimate logical deriveable truths (although I guess the Vulcans got their warp drive first, hmmm)... The greatest breakthroughs in science were made once the ancient Greek philosophic method was turned on its head and transformed into the scientific method we use today. Theory and practice, unified in harmony; either on their own regarded with suspicion - look at cold fusion and string theory...

    Simon
    • Re:Vulcan science (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:09PM (#8820897)
      I have little time for philosophy: the endless soul-searching and argument over subtle nuance seems pretty meaningless - you can't root an argument in reality when you're debating the existence of reality!

      In other words, philosophy essentially is religious argument.

      Thus invoking religion in philosophical argument is like introducing Hitler when the subject is Nazis.

      KFG

      • It often starts out that way.

        Once interesting issues are framed, they sometimes get answered and a new concrete subject area is born.

        Mathematics and geometry are two examples. We would hardly call those fields "religious argument" today, although it may have seemed that way at first.

        • Re:Vulcan science (Score:5, Insightful)

          by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @08:52PM (#8822008)
          I did not mean to imply that philosophy has been without merit within the span of human existence. When introduced by "calling" I am more often introduced as a philosopher, rather than as a physicist (musician sneaks in there a lot too).

          I generally deny the claim though.

          Certainly the philosophies spawned science (which is why science degrees are still degrees in philosophy), but there is a descernable dividing line between the sciences and the philosophies.

          That dividing line can be summed up in one word:

          "Proof."

          Or disproof, as the case may be.

          As a Zen Buddhist I "know" that the world we percieve with our senses is one of illusion, that there is an underlying physics which may often be very different than what we think the world is like. As a physicist I can demonstrate this. What I "know" must give way to what I can demonstrate.

          One will find the "missing link" in Descarte, widely held to be the founder of modern scientific thought, but whose arguments were still largely rooted in theology. To one not raised within the Judeo/Christian/Islamic tradition he can be rather tough sledding on this account.

          There are certain fields beyond the pale of science, where philosophy still rules the roost, where only it has "answers", but those answers cannot be proven or disproven. They are held by belief and "faith."

          Thus the answers philosophy provides are the basis for interminable argument without resolve, and often bloodshed.

          Science cannot resolve the question, "What is the best way for us to live?," although much to its disgrace it often pretends that it can (it can certainly quantify and predict certain aspects of how we live, which is a useful thing to do, but it cannot scientifically define "best").

          I would suggest that there is, philosophically speaking, no particular reason why we should exist at all, and the question of such isn't a scientific one. We do, or do not, exist.

          Is happiness, perhaps, a measure of how we should live? The extreme behaviorists amoung us would deny that hapiness even exits. Yet I know that hapiness is at least a major factor to be considered. Philosophically. But I can't for the life of me tell you what hapiness is. Nor can I convince you of the Satori state, because I cannot demonstrate it, you must experience it yourself. . .

          And even then it might be illusion.

          It is meta-physical.

          Thus it is argued about ad infinitum. Suzuki drives me to distraction sometimes. He should have talked less and meditated more, but he came from the academic philosophical tradition of Buddhism.

          Thus arguing the unprovable, while it has certain validity, and can even be instructional in one's youth, in the end amounts to little more than masturbation of the soul. It makes you feel good, but leads nowhere except feeling good (which in itself, granted, might, philosophically speaking, have some validity).

          Bear in mind also that most of, if not all, the really deep questions (including those engendered by accelerating technolgy and industry) where argued nigh unto death many, many thousands of years ago. At some point it becomes like watching the same episode of Gilligan's Island over, and over and over again.

          It kinda ceases to fascinate after awhile. You've heard it all before. You suddenly realize that it's silly and trivial. Then you find out your parents had heard it all before long before you were born (this is always a revelation to youth, whose timeline innately begins with their own selfconciousness, thus the tendency to try to teach grandma how to suck eggs, and ultimately to Twain's observation about how much his father had learned in just a few short years).

          So argue philosophy while you are young. It's a necessary part of the development process, like learning not to piss on your hands, and don't forget what you learned by it as most people seem to do.

          But there really isn't any point in trying to teach pigs to sing. It wastes your time and only annoys the pigs.

          KFG
          • Re:Vulcan science (Score:3, Interesting)

            Wonderful post; I really enjoyed it. It gives the impression that you've been on this earth for a long, long time, or at least that you've been blessed like few others are with ample time for contemplation.

            I've come across several of the ideas you've mentioned before, the most central to my post being the idea that philosophy is the realm of non-provable theories. This is an idea I can hardly disagree with.

            It kinda ceases to fascinate after awhile. You've heard it all before.

            This is true on the tim
          • As a Zen Buddhist I "know" that the world we percieve with our senses is one of illusion
            But world as we percieve it IS an illusion. It's just that the illusion is mostly build on facts perceived through our senses.
      • Re:Vulcan science (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        unfortunately, no. people who "don't have time for" philosophy generally don't realize that philosophy covers a very broad spectrum, from how to live your life, to politics, to matters of science, to things like debating if reality even exists. It puts it all together and attempts to find some meaning from it all. There's such a broad spectrum and no one person, I don't think, can really study ALL of philosophy.
      • Thanks for your clarifying logic on the parent's attempted guilt by association equating religion with Nazism. That was bigotry pure and simple.

        • Nah, he was just trying to write a corallary to Godwin's Law without writing all the parallel corallarys to Godwin's Law.

          In that sense he was trying not to associate relgion with anything. He was objecting to such association.

          He was, perhaps, further confused by the entirely modern shcool trying to pretend that philosophy has secular underpinnings. It certainly is true that it has nonchristian underpinnings, and to those who first formulated the idea that philosophy was secular nonchristian and secular lo
          • Your probably right. In retrospect, I see that my knee was jerking a bit.

            For all who are interested Godwin's law [astrian.net] states:

            "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin's Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those gro

      • No. You've gone way too narrow.

        Invoking Hitler when the subject is politics.

        FP.
    • I agree with you that philosophies that debate the existence of reality, or talk about "alternate realities" and the relative degrees of reality between them are quite frankly a waste of time. Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism has a set of very logical axioms on which the rest is constructed. You may or may not agree with EVERYTHING she says, but in my opinion her views on consciousness, reality and free-will are right on the target.
    • Geometry (Score:5, Interesting)

      by skrysakj ( 32108 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:15PM (#8820957) Homepage Journal
      I mostly agree, but don't forget about geometry/trig, etc...

      It was a strange thing back then when philosophers said "Let's not measure things, not even REAL things, instead lets think of the IDEA of spatial relations". The idea of the line, equations, and all of those other fundamentals we all learn today. It was math in the philosophical sense. (a^2 + b^2 = c^2 ) (or the shortest distance between two points is....)
      If that had never happened, if they hadn't stepped back from the drawing table to theorize and philosophize, we wouldn't have the solid mathematical foundation we have today.

      So, the same may be said of other philosophies. Stepping back from reality, and thinking about things that seem unrelated may eventually turn out to be the exact opposite.
      • Re:Geometry (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        we wouldn't have the solid mathematical foundation we have today.

        You misspelled "ephemeral yet useful". ;)

    • The article has little to do with the game of chess

      Apperantly the writer of this news item did not understand that and decided to do the next best thing. To submit a news article via plagiarizing the article's third paragraph. After all, this is slashdot, no one reads the article. Who would notice?
    • are you sure you're not a 'bot?

      • are you sure you're not a 'bot?

        Yes. Of course, a true philosopher can never know...

        Simon :-)
        • Holden: You look down and you see a slasdot troll, Leon. It's crawling toward you.

          Leon: Troll? What's that?

          Holden: You know what a loser is?

          Leon: Of course.

          Holden: Same thing.

          Deckard (Harrison Ford) giving a test. You're deleting spam from your inbox. You come across a full page nude photo of a girl.

          Rachael (Sean Young) Is this testing whether I'm a spammer or a lesbian, Mr. Deckard?

    • I am a philosopher and hence have a little more time for philosophy than you, but this article is shallow and weak. This is to philosophy what idle musings on how everything is uncertain thanks to Heisenberg is to quantum physics. (I am also a physicist, as well as a philosopher).
    • Re:Vulcan science (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dracken ( 453199 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:42PM (#8821169) Homepage
      The greatest breakthroughs in science were made once the ancient Greek philosophic method was turned on its head and transformed into the scientific method we use today.

      Not necessarily. The greatest engineering breakthroughs maybe. But not the greatest intellectual breakthroughs.

      Look at computer science for example. People never thought about the existance of a "general purpose computing machine" till Bertrand russell came by. Russell, a great philosopher posed this question (which can be simplified as):- "If I can represent formulae using abstract symbols and data using abstract symbols - can formulae work on formulae which work on data ?" - Presto ! there came an idea - there can be a formula (computer) which takes a formula (program) and apply it to a symbol (data). This was the motivation behind Church's lambda calculus and Turing's Turing machine. Once they came up with turing machines, it was just a question of time before someone built them. So you see my friend, Knowing that a thing exists requires a bit of philosophy. Actually finding it is simply an engineering effort.
      • Not necessarily. The greatest engineering breakthroughs maybe. But not the greatest intellectual breakthroughs.

        Look at computer science for example. People never thought about the existance of a "general purpose computing machine" till Bertrand russell came by.

        You seem to have forgotten Charles Babage.

        • He's also forgotten about the minds behind "The Turk" in the late 1700s. I'm sure that they pondered and mused the solutions of other intellectual puzzles.
          It doesn't matter that they knew The Turk was a fraud, as all that was required was "thought about the existance of". E.g. The book 'Inanimate Reason' was written a century before Babbage.

          FP.
    • by IceAgeComing ( 636874 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:57PM (#8821274)
      Today's philosophers of mind are asking the questions that direct AI researchers toward identifying and solving the interesting research problems.

      Those of use who have studied and performed research in AI know that "android epistomology" (the study of the space of possible thoughts in an android mind) is a very vibrant and important topic that is widely debated. The term "android epistemology" was first coined by Clark Glymour in a sourcebook on this topic.

      Rudolf Carnap [utm.edu] was the first to combine propositional logic with natural language to come up with a general philosophy of high-level thought. His ideas were rigorous enough to be considered computer programs, and yet he came up with them in 1928!

      Recently, we heard about the Robotic Race, a 150-mile race of autonomous vehicles, where the winner only made it 7 miles. Want to know why the winner didn't get farther? It got a tire stuck in sand, and wasn't "smart" enough to realize that flooring the accelerator wasn't doing any good, so it burned the tire off, right down to the rim. Had it included in its space of possible mental states the idea it could disengage an axle, it could have gotten out of its hole and kept going. It didn't have the "mental capacity" to step back, reflect, and consider an alternative idea.

      The question of how we, as humans, are able to adjust our "space of mental thoughts" to external conditions is hardly even addressed in the modern AI literature, and yet it's precisely this kind of question that philosophers identify as an important problem and ask first!

      So, we owe philosophy a debt for often framing the correct questions for other to later answer.

    • Re:Vulcan science (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Raindance ( 680694 ) * <johnsonmx@gmaDEBIANil.com minus distro> on Friday April 09, 2004 @07:27PM (#8821495) Homepage Journal
      I get the feeling that you have two or more contradictory ideas of what Philosophy is, if you think that Philosophy is both "endless soul-searching and argument over subtle nuance" and the cause for "The greatest breakthroughs in science"--

      I think you've some good thoughts but it's rather confusing- what's the main point of your comment?

      RD
    • I agree that philosophy often seems pointless, however, every now and then somebody has an idea, and that single idea changes the world. Some of these ideas are practical (like the number zero), and the value of others is harder to describe (like existentialism).

      IMHO, I think that philosophy is a mostly pointless exercise that occasionally yields extraordinary results.

      Give the Vulcan scientists a chance, and they may draw some insight into the description of reality. I play chess, and have found that it
    • "you can't root an argument in reality when you're debating the existence of reality!"

      Sure you can. I think therefore I am.

      = 9J =

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:02PM (#8820822)
    A group of chess enthusiasts had checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off.

    "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

    Q. What's the difference between a chess player and a highway construction worker?
    A. A chess player moves every now and then.

    Which football team has a couple of chess pieces missing?
    QPR

    Q. What is the difference between a chess player and a couple on a blind date?
    A. The chess player mates then chats......
    Regards,
    (courtesy of Graham Moore)

    Q - Which group of women are the best chess players?

    A - Feminists. Their opponents begin with King and Queen,
    but *they* always start with 2 Queens.
  • What about GO? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluethundr ( 562578 ) * on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:10PM (#8820911) Homepage Journal
    If Chess has these implications, imagine what a good match of GO [demon.co.uk] will do for you! Both man and computer alike! Simple to learn, arcane to master offering a lifetime of fulfillment.

    I've read that while computers can offer a credible competition to even a Chessmater, there is no current "go" program that can challenge a true master of that game. Though it's been a while since I've read this, so this may have changed. But this has been a reason why computer logic enthusiasts have been enthralled with this game for many a year.

    A little offtopic...but...by the way, while on the topic of Go: did you know that the original selling price of KPT Bryce [auntialias.com] was determined over a game of go? Eric Wenger (the original developer who based all of the fractal math on the work of Ken Musgrave [kenmusgrave.com], originally an aprentice of Dr. Mandelbrot himself) thought that Bryce should be a "Hollywood Tool" and cost over $7000 (back in the early 90's!). But Kai Krause thought it should be a tool to "empower the creativity of the average person" and said the pricepoint should be set at $99.00

    So they decided to let a game of Go decide it. Thankfully, Kai won the game!
    • Re:What about GO? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by r.jimenezz ( 737542 ) <rjimenezhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:25PM (#8821044)
      It's still the way you read it. Go is much more complex. I recall reading a very interesting article about it at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], which touches briefly on the comparison with chess and computer Go.
    • Re:What about GO? (Score:3, Interesting)

      there is no current "go" program that can challenge a true master of that game. Though it's been a while since I've read this, so this may have changed. But this has been a reason why computer logic enthusiasts have been enthralled with this game for many a year.

      I'm just getting into the game, and haven't even played against humans much. I must say it gets my interests more than chess. I have to ask, has the same amount of resources been put into creating a Go program as there has into Deep Blue?

      I don'
      • Re:What about GO? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm just getting into the game, and haven't even played against humans much.

        My suggestion: play against humans, much. Get an IGS (PandaNet), KGS and NNGS account, and use them all. They're free btw.

        Playing against computers will teach you bad habits. GnuGO has painfully weird and awful style (no offence to the developers, it's a great accomplishment nonetheless, and they'd be the first to admit its shortcomings - some of them hang out on NNGS). Many Faces of Go is better, but it's still nothing like play

    • I've read that while computers can offer a credible competition to even a Chessmater, there is no current "go" program that can challenge a true master of that game.

      Congratulations, you are the winner of the "+1, first one to talk about Go in a chess story" moderation. You get free admission to the club -- but I'm afraid that given that searching Slashdot for chess stories reveals several hundred, parking will be a bit scarce.
    • I love Go (Score:5, Informative)

      by trance9 ( 10504 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @07:56PM (#8821675) Homepage Journal
      Go is an awesome game. My own experience is that playing Go gave me deeper insight into problem solving in general. In Go you and your opponent make the same number of moves, but by the end of the game one of you has surrounded more territory. That makes it a game of economy: Whoever makes the most efficient moves wins. It becomes a game of subtle tradeoffs, swaps, and double-meanings. You learn that if you try and have everything you will wind up with nothing; and how to follow a plan with stubborn determination yet constantly redefine your goals. You learn that sometimes the simplest, quietest moves are absolutely decisive and often difficult to understand.

      Chess has proved the value of a brute force approach--even without a lot of AI routines, simply searching the game tree and adding up the value of the men left on the board is a workable algorithm. Good chess programs improve on that significantly with rules to prune the tree search, and further rules to score a board position. That doesn't work so well in Go: There are 361 points on a Go board, with a typical game lasting some 200 moves--an unimaginably large number of game combinations. Worse, there's no easy way to assign a value to a board position once you've brute forced your way through the combinations. The combination of these two factors is one reason why there are no really good Go playing programs, as there are in Chess.

      Go is a great game to play on the Internet. You can order all the books you need to get you started, and then you can play on the 'net. There's not bad Go implementations at Yahoo Games, etc., but eventually you will move up to the real go servers like Kiseido [kiseido.com] or Panda [pandanet.co.jp], both located in Japan.

      • Re:I love Go (Score:4, Interesting)

        by wmshub ( 25291 ) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @07:23PM (#8827398) Homepage Journal
        ...eventually you will move up to the real go servers like Kiseido or Panda, both located in Japan.
        Speaking as the author and head administrator of the Kiseido Go Server [kiseido.com], I can say for sure that it is not located in Japan. Kiseido, the sponsor, is a Japanese company, but the server was developed in the United States and has always been hosted there too. We have cheaper dedicated hosting than Japan, after all, so there is little reason to move!

        But on this Go v. Chess topic, let me add that I read an article a while back (don't have the URL, sorry, may have even been a print article) that examined stroke victims. Strong Go players who suffered brain damage to one of their hemispheres but not the other would play a worse game, but the nature of the loss of playing skill would be very different depending on whether the stroke hit the one half of the brain than the other; one side (don't remember whether left or right) would lose their tactical/fighting ability in the game, the other side would lose their ability to work with large abstract territories. The article pointed out that chess players would lose basically all their chess ability when the damage was to one side of the brain (the one that matched tactics in go), and would lose very little ability when they suffered damage to the other side.

        Anyway, it indicates that one of the ways that go is very different from chess is that it needs skills associated with the abstract/intuitive side of your brain and skills associated with the logical part of your brain, while chess needs primarily skills associated with the logical part. Perhaps this is why some people prefer one game over the other? If you love chess for its tactical reading, then you might not care for the abstract parts of go, which you would find boring. Meanwhile, a player who enjoys all of the game of go might find chess interesting but "lacking something."

        Anyway, I'm not going to argue which game is better, just play what you like and let other people play what they like, no need to criticize either group.

    • Re:What about GO? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Senjutsu ( 614542 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @08:41PM (#8821946)
      I've read that while computers can offer a credible competition to even a Chessmater, there is no current "go" program that can challenge a true master of that game.

      Forget true master, no current GO program can challenge much more than a raw n00b at the game. The highest rated programs are around 10 - 15 kyu, which is to say they play better than a rank amateur, but not by a lot, and suffer from the fact that they can be confused into making horrible moves if you exploit certain flaws in their AI. Once you learn what moves exploit their weaknesses, you'll beat them everytime no matter how bad you are.

      A huge branching factor and the lack of anything remotely approaching a clear evaluation algorithm will probably hamper computer Go for years to come.
    • If Chess has these implications, imagine what a good match of GO will do for you! Both man and computer alike! Simple to learn, arcane to master offering a lifetime of fulfillment.

      Great, Go-zealots. I've nothing against the game itself but some of these people are more predictable than the Gentoo/Debian trolls.

      I've read that while computers can offer a credible competition to even a Chessmater, there is no current "go" program that can challenge a true master of that game.

      I have no idea what a "Ches

  • by Fished ( 574624 ) <amphigory@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:10PM (#8820912)
    Chess is a game for people who don't know how to play Go.

    A zen master was once asked, "What is the greatest game ever invented by man?"

    He replied, "Chess, of course."

    His chela asked, "But, what of Go?"

    The master replied, "There was go before there were men."

    pandanet.co.jp [pandanet.co.jp]

  • by radiumhahn ( 631215 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:13PM (#8820929)
    I'm sorry... this article feels like an infomercial for pseudoscience. With abstractions like "Does the number 12 exist?" I have to wonder why it made the cut to even appear on slashdot. We could also pretend we're Vulcans and talk about the deflector dish, but it certainly isn't worth slashdot coverage.
    • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @10:53PM (#8822539) Journal
      A question plagues humanity for thousands of years: "Do Platonic Ideals actually exist?"

      It is not until 2004 that Slashdot User "radiumhahn" finally answers the question definatively, "Who cares?"

      The Slashdot moderation "Insightful" proves the point is, indeed, insightful, and a deep and powerful question is finally laid to rest, once and for all.

      Thank God for you, "radiumhahn"! Where ever would philosophy be without your "Insightful" contributions?
    • With abstractions like "Does the number 12 exist?" I have to wonder why it made the cut to even appear on slashdot.

      How can a brace of quail really be said to have something in common with a pair of sandals?

      Utter nonsense!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Funny, as the current trend in AI research is to eschew abstractions and modeling (referred to as GOFAI - good old fashioned AI) in favor of neural nets and the like. Adherents of embodiment look at chess as exactly the sort of problem stacks the deck in favor of the machines / can't tell us anything interesting about intelligence ...

    Of course, chess is always solvable with sufficient computing power. There's really nothing interesting about it, just an optimized adversarial search tree with some functi

    • Funny, as the current trend in AI research is to eschew abstractions and modeling (referred to as GOFAI - good old fashioned AI) in favor of neural nets and the like.

      I've seen so many lame ass architectures defined as "neural nets" in the past few years it's hilarious. Effectively any loosely coupled network is a "neural net" to the marketecture guys!

      I personally would be much more impressed with a computer that could play baseball.

      A computer program to manage a baseball game would be pretty inte

  • by g_adams27 ( 581237 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:14PM (#8820946)

    Those more interested in the aspects of computers and brute-force calculating power vs. human intuition in games like chess might find this article [denbeste.nu] interesting.

    The author predicts that while computers will one day defeat even the greatest chess Grand Masters, they will probably never be able to master the Chinese game of "Go".

    • Current go programs are no better than weak amateurs at this point in time. Perhaps 4 kyu in strength.

      it is a far more difficult problem to solve given its exponentially larger number of possibilities, but its true difficulty lies in the issues surrounding pattern recognition. It will be decades before a computer can compete with even a strong amateur, let along a professional strength player.

      More go sites to check out:

      http://gobase.org
      http://go4go.net
      http://www . kiseido.com

      -yuf
  • by Bull999999 ( 652264 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:18PM (#8820985) Journal
    That explains why I never can beat a computer at chess. Whenever I get better, the computer gets even more better!
  • by greppling ( 601175 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:18PM (#8820994)
    It start out interesting:

    I find the game to be not only fun but also rife with philosophical implications. It reinforces certain lessons of everyday philosophy, for instance the importance of trying hard (my games vary widely in quality, depending on effort and attention) and maintaining some humility (just when I think I've gotten good, someone comes along and wipes the board with me).

    But then he goes on to make a discussion about platonism that could IMHO be made much better (and would be more interesting) in relation to mathematics.

    It hapens that I have just (about two hours ago) written a short essay [xmp.net] on how to improve in another board game. What I didn't dare saying there is that you cannot seriously improve in go without trying to improve get an overall positive attitude towards life, somehow trying to be on top of it.

    I would certainly have loved to see a chess player's take on that topic. Chess is probably still a little more competitive than go (in the Western culture), and they might well know more about it than we go players do.

  • by IceAgeComing ( 636874 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:21PM (#8821005)
    The article mentions this interesting invocation of chess in philosophy:

    Daniel Dennett's evocation of chess computers in his argument for the compatibility of free will and determinism.

    I find it far more interesting than the two the article DOES cover, i.e. whether ideal objects exist and whether computers will out-think humans.

    If this comment has any particular point, it's that there are many interesting questions that are probably NOT covered by this article, and this might be an interesting forum to bring some of them up.

  • This article reads like an article on chess that collided with an article on DesCartes' philosophy.
  • Perhaps in some sense, all chess moves, positions and games are "out there," but they have a rather limited existence if nobody plays them...By some estimates, the number of possible chess games exceeds the number of particles in the universe.

    1. This is high-school grade philosophy

    2. Platonism deals with this; you could create a potentially infinite number of chairs and none would match the original, ideal chair, but would be reflections of it on this plane.

    3. WTF does this have to do with AI? Jus

  • by Stuntmonkey ( 557875 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:29PM (#8821078)

    Chess is also an interesting test case for one of Vinge's paths to superhuman intelligence. [caltech.edu] Namely, the idea that human/machine interfaces may become so intimate that we will in effect fuse with our technology, becoming superhuman in capability.

    Kasparov, for example, has been advocating allowing mixed human/computer teams in "Advanced Chess" [chessbase.com] tournaments. It seems that the human/machine combination, with the right interface, yields far better chess play than either alone.

    Some questions that fascinate me:

    • What is the ideal human/computer interface in chess to maximize play strength?
    • What are some other tasks or games where the combined human/computer would be much more effective than either alone?

    Frankly I find these more useful questions than the old human vs. computer debate.

  • by Gunark ( 227527 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:33PM (#8821104)
    Chess isn't nearly as interesting for A.I. as we once thought it was. Essentially it's a closed, well defined formal system. These sorts of things are relatively easy to deal with, compared to problems like "Write a good essay about the history of chess". We have a pretty good idea how to write a really good chess program, but we have no idea how to even begin to algorithmically write a good essay.

    Chess is essentially a math problem. "Real world" problems however are a completely different ball game. We need to answer some very interesting and fundamental questions before we can even begin to build any interesting A.I. (A theory of relevance [sperber.com] being one, and the frame problem [wikipedia.org] being another).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It is a closed system, but you can say the same thing about arithmetic and algebra. Well, Hilbert tried to say about as much and look where that got him...

      It's interesting that the article mentions variations on the game. One could imagine some meta-language to describe the rules and then a meta-chess solver to validate games... Hmm, but then you couldn't really say everything you wanted to about the system. It would be, heh, Incomplete.
  • I'm not really interested in Bobby Fischer's platonic form.

    The young Russian Grandmaster, Kosteniuk [kosteniuk.com], is much more exciting.

  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @06:38PM (#8821141)
    On the one hand, chess is a very interesting realm for understanding the realms of human and machine intelligence. It is an interesting microworld with enough complexity that it lacks brute force or close-form solutions. Thus it provides a useful test case for understanding rational action. And blitz chess is useful for looking at reasoning under time constraints.

    On the other hand, chess is closed - a King will always be limited to moving one square in any direction. With chess, no new moves, new pieces, new board locations can ever appear. Chess is also certain -- there are no ambiguites in the locations of the pieces. With chess the rules and positions are fully known before hand by the exactly two players who adhere to the constraints of the game.

    By contrast, the field of human affairs evolves continuously to create new scenarios, new possible movements, new roles, and new players. Everyday slashdot has articles about the novel activities of people (from scammers using TTY relays [slashdot.org] to new chipsets [slashdot.org] to new laws [slashdot.org]). I would argue that decision making under conditions that are uncertain, open-ended, massively multiplayer, and subject to changes in the rules are a bit different.

    They say one must learn to crawl before learning to walk. In some ways, learning about the intelligence required to play chess is like learning to crawl. That even the decision making underpinnings of playing chess is so hard to understand says something about how hard it will be to understand true intelligence in open-ended situations the poeple deal with every day.
    • I would argue that decision making under conditions that are uncertain, open-ended, massively multiplayer, and subject to changes in the rules are a bit different.

      Except that these new situations and different rules really don't change anything about the way you handle situations. Basically everything in life is just a series of much smaller problems, requiring a finite number of operations. You just have to make a bunch of smaller decisions to handle that one big "new" experience. If we could teach co
      • Basically everything in life is just a series of much smaller problems, requiring a finite number of operations.

        Well, no. Real world situations tend to have nasty nonlinear coupling -- you hit a decompostional limit that forces to either deal with the whole big system, make assumptions that discard parts of the problem, or use iterative approaches that may not converge. For example the N-body gravity problem cannot be accurately reduced to a set of 2-body problems. The fact that so many human decision
        • Easier said than done.

          I certinaly didn't want to make it sound easy. That is why I said _if_ we could teach computers the basics. Obviously discovering just what the "basics" are and getting a computer to work by those rules would be very difficult, but ultimatly I'd think it would work.

          As for the problem of decompositional limits, making assumptions, etc... This is what humans do all the time. We break things down until we can understand. If we can't break it down enough we make (sometimes radica
          • I certainly didn't want to make it sound easy. That is why I said _if_ we could teach computers the basics.

            Actually, you and I agree on this, sorry if my responding post seemed like an attack. The point of my orginal post was to mark the vast difference between chess and the real world. Thus, a deeper understanding of chess may not actually be as useful as we think because chess lacks so many of the features that makes real-world decision making so hard.

            Obviously discovering just what the "basics"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This guy parses the existence-of-universals debate nicely, though I'd certainly argue against the individual who claims that belief in the existence of universals entails Platonism; plenty of metaphysicians accept the one without the other.

    But my reason for posting was to point him, if he reads this reply, towards a writer he'll find very interesting. The philosopher John William Miller has a series of quite readable, philosophically acute books in which he presents the existence of universals in human ex
  • other worlds (Score:2, Informative)

    The article talks about Platonism and other worlds, and gives it a possible "Perhaps". This is utter rubbish, of course, as ANY POSSIBLE evidence for "another world" must exist in THIS world. Therefore, there is no other world. There is only this one.

    The articles grasp of philosophy is suboptimal.

    RS

    • ummm... (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      you might want to review modal and symbolic logic.
      I'll leave you to use the google.

      If I remember right...

      possable worlds end up being sets of true/false values for logical propositions. Actually they end up being the infinite set of what the actual true/false value of all the possible (logically possible) propositions actually are.

      And since sets for different possible worlds may(must? any logicians out there?) differ. Any imperical knowledge has nothing to do with proving
      or disproving possible worlds.

      Wh
      • wrong.

        I don't care about possible worlds or impossible worlds - it doesn't matter.

        Any evidence you have for another world must be present in this world. Therefore, there is only this world. There is no other world. Possibility has nothing to do with it.

        You need to read.

        Now describe the universe : give three examples.

        RS

  • Two Thoughts... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bl33d4merican ( 723119 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @07:09PM (#8821374)
    It seems rather clear to me that abstracts exist. Obviously not in the physical sense, but they must exist. If they did not, we would have very little basis for calling two similar (but obviously different) objects the same. For example, if I saw two animals and had no abstract of what an animal was, how could I say it was an animal? If one was a dog and the other a cat, how could I differentiate unless I had some preconceived notion of what a dog was? Furthermore, if I saw a species of dog which I had never seen before and had no idea existed, how would I still know it was a dog without some abstract conception of what a dog is? Arguably, an individual thing, such as a particular dog, has potentiality (the potential to exist in reality) while an abstract always exists in reality, on the basis that it needs to physical status to exist. This could be applied to the question of AI and chess as well. Since it would seem practically impossible for any person or machine to hold all the possible (or abstract) variations on a chess game, there must be some way we arrive at 'new' undiscovered ways of playing. I would assume this to be something that chess programs tend not to use, behaving randomly. When faced with a decision, a human will often choose randomly or emotionally, possibly choosing what would seem a poorer choice. A chess program, especially one that is playing a particularly talented human opponent, would likely not suspect such acts, instead 'thinking' the opponent would behave in the most logical way possible. How we could teach computers intuition is anybody's guess.
    • Re:Two Thoughts... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by darweidu ( 530107 )
      But just because you can talk about something doesn't mean it exists. For example, what about your pet elephant? I'm discussing it now, but it has never existed.

      The reason that you can say two similar things exist is because they have obvious things in common which you can recognize. You use your SENSES to tell that they are similar, it's not purely some mental faculty.

      For example, if I gave you two objects, and you had never seen something of that natural type before, you wouldn't be able to tell me they
      • What about concepts we talk about every day, like justice? Many subjectivists are all too ready to admit that if something isn't physical, made of atoms, it doesn't exist. Physically, that may be true. I could argue with until I'm blue in the face on the point, but a practical example would serve much better. If I raped your mother, stole your car, and mugged you, you can be damn sure you'd call the police. Why? Because you sense a violation of your personhood--you feel it's unjust. Justice is a conc
      • The only thing that keeps these sorts of "philosophical" debates alive is the tacit agreement between the participants to use the different meanings of the word "exist" in opposing arguments.

        Q.E.D. Most armchair philosophers are wankers.
  • cheese (Score:2, Funny)

    by andy1307 ( 656570 )
    At first i read it as cheese...admit it: most people here would be happier if it had really read Cheese improves humans..
  • by geordieboy ( 515166 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @07:52PM (#8821648)
    An interesting twist on chess is taking a position and attempting to deduce something about what must have occurred in the game previously. For example, has a promotion occurred or not? What must have been white's last move? I don't know whether there exist computer algorithms for solving these sort of problems - a brute force approach would probably be useless. It's possible to construct quite interesting and non-trivial puzzles of this sort. The logician Raymond Smullyan's delightful book The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes [amazon.com] starts with some easy examples and builds up to some really mind boggling examples.
  • by skifreak87 ( 532830 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @10:02PM (#8822339)
    I want to know why if I program in some function that determines how good a board is, and the computer goes and tries all possibilities to a certain depth of moves to determine the best move using either a minimax algorithm or something like that, why is this considered A.I.? The computer isn't doing anything I didn't specifically tell it to do.

    Wouldn't real AI be writing a program that plays a whole lot of chess and "learns" what makes a board/move good and that's how it decides how to play?

    I just don't get why a computer playing exactly how it's programmed is considered AI and not learning anything on it's own (on its own is loose here, if it was specifically programmed to learn I'd still consider it learning on it's own).

    For instance, we wrote a Kalah player in a CS class I was in. You know how my team decided how to rank boards, we wrote a program that cycled through thousands of possibilities for the different weightings of each pit and then compared the results when using those weightings. In my head, that's A.I., the computer just decided for itself what the best evaluation function was (albeit we told it how to decide) as opposed to simply using one we hard-coded in and having it search really deeply (which in my mind is not AI at all, just a computer playing a game).
  • by Transcendent ( 204992 ) on Friday April 09, 2004 @11:07PM (#8822591)
    Those interested in impressing others with their intelligence play chess. Those who would settle for being chic play backgammon. Those who wish to become individuals of quality, take up Go.


    - Microcomputer Executive and an expert player, when asked to compare Go with other games


    Don't want to flame, but the article does seem like a bunch of "pseudo-intellectual" (forgive me for using that phrase) 14 year olds sitting around, playing chess and thinking their minds are advanced. Half way through the article I thought they would break out matrix-like statements saying "there is no pawn."

    Seriously, it just sounds like a half-assed book on Hume or such that somehow had pages of "Chess for Dummies" inserted randomly.
  • the search for an answer leads through a board with 32 pieces and 64 squares.

    That is one search. The correct answer is 42.

  • Go back and read Mind Children (near the end, about Hashlife) [Moravec] and Permutation City [Egan] ...
  • \begin{blah}
    check out this MSRI [msri.org] Publication for an interesting discussion on {\em Games of no Chance}. These are games where $2$ players alternatively play and each has complete information. Also the game is bound to terminate with the winner being the last person to move. Chess also falls under this category, as do many other interesting combinatorial and topological games like Go, Ko, Checkers etc. While some like Checkers have been tamed, others like Chess or Go refuse to give up.
    \end{blah}

    Go karma
  • Philosophy 101? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pVoid ( 607584 ) on Saturday April 10, 2004 @12:29AM (#8822896)
    Wow, I was actually excited to read this article when I saw the title, but this guy is a disappointingly bad thinker:

    Did the Ruy Lopez exist before its 16th-century namesake started playing it? A Platonist might say it did, as part of an abstract set of all possible chess openings. But chess itself has a finite history. The game originated around the seventh century A.D., and its modern rules became standard in the 15th century, not long before Ruy Lopez de Segura was playing. Platonic ideals are normally defined as timeless, yet in this case they seem also to be historically grounded. The world of abstractions seems to depend on our world.

    Does that mean that the number Pi didn't exist before it was discovered? It did, Platonism as he refers to in this article at least, is just stating that fact that that number although not defined (hence taken a particular meaning for us humans) has always existed.

    Saying that Pi didn't exist before we noticed it is equivalent to saying that the outter most particles in the universe, the ones propelled by the big bang, don't exist since there's no way for us to reach them (they are moving at the speed of light outward).

    Perhaps in some sense, all chess moves, positions and games are "out there," but they have a rather limited existence if nobody plays them. Interestingly, it appears physically impossible for any computer or other material entity ever to store complete information about the game. By some estimates, the number of possible chess games exceeds the number of particles in the universe.

    Here's one, the number of different pathways a neural signal can take through the brain is WAY higher than the number of particles in the universe... does that mean we can't form some of these because nobody would be able to count them?

    Both of these paragraphs don't add anything to the text, IMHO.

    Anyone care to tell me otherwise in a logical manner?

    • Re:Philosophy 101? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cagle_.25 ( 715952 )
      Another poster noted that there are two different senses of the word "exist" floating around here.

      Exist(1) would mean something like "to have material extent", assuming that those words could be sufficiently defined. In that sense, particles "exist".

      Exist(2) would mean -- to a Platonist -- "to be a form", which might or might not involve material extent; Plato was fuzzy on that point.

      The problem is now to define precisely what it means to be a form. We certainly use forms in our thoughts all the time
      • Re:Philosophy 101? (Score:3, Informative)

        by pVoid ( 607584 )
        would claim that Plato's forms are part of the underlying abstract structure of the universe.

        I don't think Platonists claim that, I think the claim is that ideas exist before-hand, and are mapped into the universe. When you say 'underlying abstract structure', it somehow implies that there is only one 'set' of ideas which are all structurally linked which guide the universe... I disagree with that in that there could be an infinite number of ideas, which form an infinite number of disjoint sets of struct

        • I think my one-line response is that "idea" != "form". It is hard for me to wrap my mind around Platonism in some ways, since I don't entirely buy into it. However, I believe that in the case of something like Justice, Plato would claim that the abstract ideal -- the form -- of Justice does indeed exist, and he would differentiate it from our ideas of justice, which are imperfect copies of that form.

          So ... if I'm understanding you correctly, I would say that "idea" != "abstract ideal", and the fact tha
  • Its not right to say Chess is of no value to AI - the best programs combine brute-force extentions with a variety of auto-learning methods from the leading edge of AI. However a strong Chess program is not quite the big thing that some thought it would be, thats true..
  • Aristotle thought that what differentiated humans from the animals was that humans could do arithmetic. Now, we know that, fundamentally, arithmetic isn't hard. It doesn't take that many gates to make an ALU, and that's totally understood. Vision, on the other hand, is very tough.

    Chess is beginning to look like that. It yields to brute force. And by modern computational standards, not very much brute force. "Deep Fritz" [chessbase.com] tied 2:2 with Kasparov running on a desktop 4-processor IA-32 machine. Kasparov sa

And on the seventh day, He exited from append mode.

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