August 1, 2002

STUMPING THE FORBIN PROJECT :

In an Ancient Game, Computing's Future (KATIE HAFNER, August 1, 2002, NY Times)
Programming other board games has been a relative snap. Even chess has succumbed to the power of the processor. Five years ago, a chess-playing computer called Deep Blue not only beat but thoroughly humbled Garry Kasparov, the world champion at the time. That is because chess, while highly complex, can be reduced to a matter of brute force computation.

Go is different. Deceptively easy to learn, either for a computer or a human, it is a game of such depth and complexity that it can take years for a person to become a strong player. To date, no computer has been able to achieve a skill level beyond that of the casual player.

The game is played on a board divided into a grid of 19 horizontal and 19 vertical lines. Black and white pieces called stones are placed one at a time on the grid's intersections. The object is to acquire and defend territory by surrounding it with stones.

Programmers working on Go see it as more accurate than chess in reflecting the ineffable ways in which the human mind works. The challenge of programming a computer to mimic that process goes to the core of artificial intelligence, which involves the study of learning and decision-making, strategic thinking, knowledge representation, pattern recognition and, perhaps most intriguingly, intuition.

"A good Go player could make a move and other players say, `Yes, that's a good move,' but they can't explain to you why it's a good move, or how they even know it's a good move," said Dr. John McCarthy, a professor emeritus at Stanford University and a pioneer in artificial intelligence.

Dr. Danny Hillis, a computer designer and chairman of the technology company Applied Minds, said that the depth of Go made it ripe for the kind of scientific progress that comes from studying one example in great detail. "We want the equivalent of a fruit fly to study," Dr. Hillis said. "Chess was the fruit fly for studying logic. Go may be the fruit fly for studying intuition."


Nice knowing we're still at least one step ahead of the Matrix. Posted by Orrin Judd at August 1, 2002 9:49 AM
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