Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The human mind: still kicking ass

Wired reports that "Computers Still Dominate Chess":
Just last week, three machines, including a computer in Abu Dhabi named Hydra, made short work of three previous champions in an exhibition match in Spain, winning five games, drawing six and losing only one to the humans.
Granted, the humans only won one game out of twelve. But the computer only won five out of twelve, or 41.7%--within 1% of what Walter Mondale walked away with against Reagan in the landslide of 1984.

The real story is how well the human mind is holding up against the exponential improvement of computer hardware and programming; for instance, the best computers still lose consistently to human grandmasters at go/wei-chi. Who expected that the human mind would be that hard to compete against at purely logical games?

A grandmaster's view:

"...computers can tap databases containing millions of games -- including those of their rivals -- while calculating moves, while human opponents face overnight grandmasters who have left no trail of games to study.

"It's quite tough because of the advantages the computers have at the beginning. They know everything about us, and we know little about them...

"I see computers make mistakes, even if they aren't big ones. If you don't make a mistake, no one can beat you, not even God. It would have to be a draw."

--grandmaster Veselin Topalov