Chess: random wise moves. Not possible. From a computer anyway. [OR: The futility of artificial intelligence]

In May 1997, an IBM supercomputer known as Deep Blue beat then chess world champion Garry Kasparov, who had once bragged he would never lose to a machine. Kasparov and other chess masters blamed the defeat on a single move made by the IBM machine. At the beginning of the second game the computer made a sacrifice that seemed to hint at its long-term strategy. Kasparov and many others thought the move was too sophisticated for a computer, suggesting there had been some sort of human intervention during the game. “It was an incredibly refined move, of defending while ahead to cut out any hint of countermoves”, grandmaster Yasser Seirawan told Wired in 2001, “and it sent Garry into a tizzy”.

Fifteen years later, one of Big Blue’s designers says the move was the result of a bug in Deep Blue’s software. Murray Campbell, one of the three IBM computer scientists who designed Deep Blue, said that the machine was unable to select a move and simply picked one at random. (1, 2)

A random move. Regarded as one of the wisest ever.

But how random can such a move be considered? Surely it seems random. At least according to the programmer of Deep Blue. But random within a calculated environment. Random performed by a non-random program with specific logic. Random which resulted from the programming algorithm of Deep Blue as fail-safe in specific cases. Random can generate once-off wise decisions. But only in the context of a non-random environment. And again random can never create poetry or art or philosophical texts or design something from scratch.

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And what is more, how “wise” can this move be considered? Surely it seems wise. But wise is doing something while consciously realizing what you actually do. A computer can never do a wise move in chess. Because it is not the computer playing. Because it does not even realize it plays chess.

Can in any case random exist? This case shows that it all comes down to the beliefs a person has for core philosophical issues which are currently unsolved. Fate vs. Free will, Determinism vs. (whatever) etc, they all show that the universe can be understood only through the irrational thinking which accepts all of the above notions at the same time…

Play again Garry.

Irrationally this time.

You cannot lose.

1. g4!

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