Thursday, October 07, 2004

Chess computer

Compare yourself to a chess computer

Imagine you come across a pair of computers playing each other at chess. You've never seen a computer, and you've never played chess. You're allowed to watch 15 minutes of 4 hour game, and during that time you've got to reach some conclusions as to what's going on.

Firstly, the Meaning of Life. What's the purpose of these chess players existence?
Well, clearly during your 15 minutes of observation it's not going to be at all clear that their purpose is to checkmate the king. A well-played game of chess largely ignores the king for the first three quarters of the match: it's all about territory and firepower. How quickly can I bring my pieces out and gain control of the centre of the board? How can I use my guile to exchange a bishop for my opponent's more valuable queen?
Without being able to see the full game, without knowing the rules... how would one know ever know the real aim? It might appear that the purpose was to take as many of the opponents pieces as possible, but how would you know that there was only one piece that actually mattered?

~Indeed, it might not even be obvious that the purpose was some sort of warfare - many games go 10 moves without any pieces being exchanged, the aim of life appearing to be to create beautiful patterns of pieces on the board.

But what if you had access to the computers' programming?

All would immediately be revealed. You'd realise the purpose of all these beautiful patterns werereal meaning of life for these computers: that the pretty patterns and scheming for firepower advantage was just a method of achieving a simple aim - to kill a king.

So how does this compare to being human? The big advanatage that Darwin gave us is access to the programming. We know what we're here to do. And this allows us to see through all the other things we do as humans - things we assume are the purpose, but turn out to be nothing more than a root to the a

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