Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More things change....

The obvious is not necessarily unambiguous.

Awestruck…? I realized it when I was trying to improve my odds at playing Chess against computer. When it beat me game after game (Level : pro), I was raging within. More games, more surrenders later, I sensed there’s more to winning than just strategy and outthinking the machine. That’s when I chanced upon this insightful piece by William Saletan. Worth a read.

Excerpts –

“We certainly needed the challenge. Chess computers, in particular, have exposed our complacency. Grandmasters used to dismiss computers as calculators, unfit for elite competition. Our vanity was so blinding that in 1997, when world champion Garry Kasparov lost to a machine called Deep Blue, he implied that the computer had received human coaching during the match.

Computers kept winning, and we kept whining. In post-game press conferences, players swore that they'd been winning right up until the moment when, for unclear reasons, they lost. Five months ago, the current champ, Vladimir Kramnik, overlooked an instant checkmate by his artificial opponent, Deep Fritz. "I rechecked this variation many times and analyzed quite far ahead," Kramnik protested. "It seemed to me I was winning."

“Kramnik's blunder was no accident. It happened because of flaws in the human brain. We thought we were smarter than computers for two reasons. First, we could choose a goal and figure out how to get there, whereas computers had to start with the available moves and see where they led. Second, computers had to think through every possible move, whereas we could recognize crucial patterns and focus on the moves that mattered. But that's why Kramnik missed the checkmate: It looked different from the usual threat pattern, and he was thinking too far ahead. Even the best brain sometimes needs computer assistance.”

“When the cosmic game between humans and computers is complete, here's how the sequence of moves will read. In the opening, we evolved through engagement with nature. In the middle game, we projected our intelligence onto computers and co-evolved through engagement with them. In the endgame, we merged computers with our minds and bodies, bringing that projected intelligence back into ourselves. The distinction between human and artificial intelligence will turn out to have been artificial.”

Pretty balanced article from Artificial Intelligence (AI) genre, surprisingly. Normally it leans way too much towards AI or argues in favor of human ascendancy. Truth however is - the more things change, more they remain the same. It’s just a round-tripping exercise in the *human–computer–human* grid. So be it. Certainly I am not the one to relax until I beat it at least 10 games in a row. And when it wins against me, it’s after a lot of sweat for its neural network.

That…means a tough fight. I like that anyday.

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