Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Standing on the Shoulders of Geniuses
It seems to me that there is a vast difference between scientific development and practical application of principal. To be sure both are important to the fledgling sport of engine chess.
It was recently suggested to me that modern chess programs are nothing more than calculators that use mathematical equations in a brut force attack on chess positions. I began to speculate that this may be a common belief among engine chess players. Of course we all know that calculators do not play chess. Modern chess programs use a variety of sub-routines that prune or limit the number of moves that are considered. Many sophisticated heuristically based techniques have been used to impart a limited but quite effective knowledge of chess to these programs. While far from being sentient, a modern chess engine is much more than a mere calculator.
The computer programs we enjoy today are a direct result of 50 years of scientific research in the field of Artificial Intelligence (Specifically that of Expert Systems, a sub-field therein.) Hundreds of unnamed contributors from many diverse disciplines came together to infuse that first spark of intelligence into a mass of inert circuitry. So slowly did it come about that we don’t clearly see its improbable wonder.
A two hour video on the history of computer chess:
Most of these brilliant men are computer scientists and mathematicians and world class *Nerds.
Not the kind of people capable of commercially profiting from the practical application of their work.
The fact that there are industries businessmen that are willing to stand upon the shoulders of these geniuses in order to grab the brass ring of profit, is the way of the world. However as Henry Ford had little to do with the invention of the automobile, so to do the commercial chess programmers of today have little to do with the underlying heuristics of the programs they produce. Ford help put autos into the hands of millions, by doing this made them a practical and useful tool for the average user.
What I am saying is give credit where credit is due and seek the next quantum leap in chess programming from the unknown men and women working in the field of artificial intelligences. Locked away form the world, hidden behind secrecy contracts, in places like Bell Labs and Los Alamos where they continue the advancement to this day.
single-minded enthusiast: an enthusiast whose interest is regarded as too technical or scientific and who seems obsessively wrapped up in it (often used in combination; offensive in some contexts)