A Non-Newtonian Fluid (maddening) wrote,
A Non-Newtonian Fluid

Interesting Article (that you can only see if you do all the NYtimes log in shit)

and it's below, under the cut too if you'd prefer not to tax your brain with fake info generation at the moment.

If a Machine Creates Something Beautiful, Is It an Artist?


Ask most chess grandmasters if chess is art and they will say unequivocally, "Yes." Ask them if chess is also a sport and the answer will again be yes. But suggest that chess might be just a very complex math problem and there is immediate resistance.

The question is more than academic. Beginning tomorrow in New York, Garry Kasparov, the world's top-ranked player and the former world champion, will play a $1 million, six-game match against a chess program called Deep Junior. It will be the fourth time that Mr. Kasparov has matched wits against a computer and the first time since he lost a similar match in 1997 to Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer developed by I.B.M. Recently, Vladimir Kramnik, Mr. Kasparov's former protégé and the current world champion, tied an eight-game match against another chess playing program called Deep Fritz.

Whether Mr. Kasparov wins or loses, clearly chess computers have reached a point where they can compete against, and sometimes beat, the world's best players. Even Mr. Kasparov, always reluctant to acknowledge that anyone or anything might be superior to him over a chess board, admits that the point at which computers consistently play better than humans is probably not that far off.

But if computers become better than humans at chess, does that mean that computers are being artistic or that chess is essentially a complicated puzzle?

The question arises partly because of the very different ways that humans and computers play chess. People rely on pattern recognition, stored knowledge, some calculation and that great unquantifiable — intuition. Computers, on the other hand, have a database of chess knowledge but mostly rely on brute force calculation, meaning they sift through millions of positions each second, placing a value on each result. In other words, they play chess the way they attack a large math problem.

Chess is not the only field where computers have achieved success formerly thought to be achievable only through human creativity. In 1997, six months after the victory by Deep Blue, a competition was held at Stanford University between a human and a computer to see which could compose music in the style of Bach. The computer won. Monty Newborn, a professor of computer science at McGill University in Montreal who has just published a book called "Deep Blue: An Artificial Intelligence Milestone," thinks that the question of what chess is is fairly clear. "There is no question that it is a puzzle," he said. "Some people like to imagine that it is an art form."

But if that were the case, some chess players reply, then why are so many people who play chess well not good at math? David Goodman, an international master, said that chess players come from many backgrounds with different skills. "In international tournaments, it's true, I've played a grandmaster who became a math professor at 23. But there are others who were writers and lawyers and even one who played soccer on Norway's national team," Mr. Goodman said.

Others do not see the implications for computer supremacy in chess in black-and-white terms. Murray Campbell, a developer of Deep Blue who still works at I.B.M., said that Deep Blue's designers had adopted a scientific and an engineering approach when building the computer, but that the results could be viewed as artistic, regardless of what produced them.

"The question reminds me of the question that often gets asked in artificial intelligence," he said. "Is the system intelligent? It is because it produces intelligent behavior. If it does something artistic, then it is artistic. It does not matter how it did it."

Jonathan Schaeffer, a professor of computer science at the University of Alberta who created Chinook, the best checkers playing entity in the world, thinks that checkers and chess are art and sport, regardless of how well computers play them. "As a competitive chess player in my younger days, when I played a beautiful game, I wanted to frame it and put it on the wall," Mr. Schaeffer said. "Chess is also a sport because it is incredibly mentally and physically demanding. That computers play it better does not lessen any of the enjoyment that we can get from the game."

For his part, Mr. Kasparov thinks that chess is art and sport as well as math and science. If there were a clear answer about what chess is, he says, "then the game of chess is over."

Mr. Campbell of I.B.M. worries that chess could be relegated to the realm of a complex math problem if computers ever "solve" the game — figure out all the possibilities and know the result regardless of what moves are played. For now, while computers have managed to solve all endgames where there are six or fewer pieces on the board, it does not seem possible that they will be able to solve the entire game given that the number of chess moves in an average game is estimated to be about 10 to the 40th power. That number is so large, it would take the most powerful computers billions of years to calculate it.

But, Mr. Campbell said, if computers do ever solve chess it would ruin it artistically. Already, he said, those endgames that computers have solved sometimes take so many moves that the ideas behind them are at times hard to follow. "That is not beautiful," he said. "It is just incomprehensible."

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