Philosophy about Chess, Computers and God

In the forum topic How close are we to solving chess? I submited two articles from my point of wiev as a philosopher. (post #82 at the page 5 and). I paste both of them here, to have them under an explicite title.

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 Post 1: Computers, programers and Self

He all! I read carefully all posts in the topic. It's 5:30 AM now, I suffer from a little insomnia, Undecided and I decided to write something from my point of view and my level of expertize (MD in philosophy).

First of all, about terminology, and basic metaphysical concept (yes, theword "metaphysic" is forbiden in Analytic Philosophy - a boring and primitive pseudopsilopy prevailign today in philosophical departments - but I am in "european continental" tradition: any try to discart metaphysics lead to be a servant of some kind of bad, por metaphysical concept - oh well, forgot it, if u r not a "profesional philosopher"! Undecided) behind every-day terms. You all said: "computer play chess"; polosportply started it (post #6), with a question:

How close are we to making computers that are 99% unbeatable

However, it's not a computer who play; it's a program.

 For human beings, it's a subject of philosophycal discusions and religious belives is it a basic diference between body and soul (or we need more then two categories - as "soul", "spirit", mind"...). For computers, it's clear: "hardware" is only a vessel for a "software", as St. Paul said that  the body is only a vessel for the spirit.

And, as it become visible in some posts, a presumpsion that "computer" is some kind of person is in back (as HAL 9000 - all know this film, I hope! Smile); this is why say "one day computers will rule a world".  

In the post #18, shaxmat64 demonstrate a confusion of ideas:

Those who think chess as a science claim that the era has come for computers because it is very hard to beat a program nowadays.

And then he add:

that would be pretty much the end of human race once machines start to think themselves...

However, machines didn't think in an essential sense. Programs are still wroten by people - nothing changed from the times of Enigma (WW II - btw, if u know russian, I just read at an excelent article about the game Fine-Alexander in New York 1944. - Alexander come to USA for they both worked with computers for Defence! ).

I remember a report about the match Kramnik - Fritz 10 (they also wrote about the "man vs machine match". Before the match, Spiegel Online wrote, and it's translated into englis in

If the world champion should lose this match against Deep Fritz, and lose it badly, one would have to admit that our electronic slaves have overtaken their human masters in yet another area of intellectual activity.

What a confusion of ideas! Projestion of human relatins where there are not aplicable! However, I can't find a source at the moment, but I remember that a team of programers said that Deep Fritz didn't play a world championship for progmas that yeear, for they prepared it especially for a match agaist human. They changed it's algoritms for possition estimation. They (humans!) changed a program! Vladimir Kramnik didn't play agaist "computer", but agaist a team of pepole using a computer as a tool ("vesel" for their invenitons).

And that' the point: we phylosophers say that computers (as like as animals) is not "self", i.e. "self-concieous". It's conencted with a diference in German between "Verstand" and "Vernunft", it could be translated into English as "intelect" and "mind" - sorry, english is not a good langage for a (continental) philosophy! Tongue out (In Croatian: razum and um, it is nice said: "raz-um" is conented with analysis, "um" with syntesis - ti is famous "creativity" what shaxmat64 said computers havn't - but u need a littly philosophy to understend what they realy have not!).

And in cybernetics, the point is: a human beingb (as a "self", as a "person"), is capable to write his/her own programes - to programing him/herself!  (We have "free will".) And computers, from the time of Enigma to Fritz 11, show no more capabilly for self-programing then a hammer - the simpliest tool. Hardware and software - there are only a tool ("slave").

Do you know the film "War Games"? A computer Joshua at the end concluded for himself that The Nuclear War is a pointless game, and that chess is more interesting. Laughing I agree, but was it was writen by a human.

So, I use computer and a lot of programs as a tool, at the moment to write and also to play chess, and in turn-based chess I use on-line databases of games as, as like books, as my "external memory" (CPU is mine alone! Cool). In the corespodent chess, acording to ICC rules, it's also alowed to use any kind of programes! They can come to the end of research and "solve" chess, but they will be only a tool we use! Don't wory - we will find a zilion of other interesting activities to express our creativity! Money mouth

 OK, it's 7 AM now, a begining of a normal day (cold and rain, unfortunatelly..). It's more  I like to write, maybe nxt time.  About God and chess. Innocent


 Post no 2: Chess, Plato and God Herself


Few days ago, I posted a discusion about some basic concepts in a subject "computers and chess" (page 5 in this topic, post #82). I argued: computers don't play chess, but programs, adn programs are wroten by people. Computer is only a tool. People (human beings) are a strange creatures, capable for self-programing (as comander Data in Star Trek - Next Generation can write his own programs when he concluded a new skill - as f.e. dating Wink - is necessary). A human being has a self-conscieus, he/she is a person, a "self", and computer is only a tool, as like as a hamer.

And then, something not-so-competelly diferent! About philospophy, and a litel theology (Aristotlle said philosophy = theology = wisdom!).

 mhooner wrote:

Does God play chess? And if he does does he always win?

It is said that God knows the end from the beginning; would chess bore Him?

 If u have in mind an idea of God as it was developed in western philosophy and adopted in monotheism, an answer is, undoubtedly, yes. 

If you are platonist (and this tradition is strong in western and islamic tradiciton), or a hindusist who accept a concept of akasha,  you can accept that all our ideas pre-existed in the eternal (out-of-time) world of pure ideas (including all science, but also all possible concepts abut good and beauty etc.). When a human being "created" or "discovered" a new idea (concept, theory etc.), it's onyl, as Plato said, recall of something for this uper world. Among others, chess, and all possible chess positions and games (and also all other possible variations of chess, as shogu etc.!), pre-existed in the world of pure ideas (or akasha). 

In neo-platonism, Plato's ideas are developed in cncept of God, a "self", an intellect who contain all pure ideas. Aristotle has also an important role in this development, with considerations in the "lambda" book of his "Metaphisics".  What God add to a sterile word of pure ideas is an act (God is a "pure act"), a "let-it-be!" (as She said in Genesis: "let be light" etc.), an actualisation: provide existence to some ideas. (Hindusm didn't make this step.) Those concepts were crucial for a developnet of the idea of God in christianity and islam.

 And the next important step in the development of God-of-philosophers: to cold do it, God must be in-finity far from our finite, material universe. She is infinite (and becouse that she is also in-definite, can't be defined).

And so, we came back to a question of chess: in spite of a high complexiti for a finite point of wiev, chess is a finite game. And all what is finite, is equall for an infitinte intelect: zero. It isn't important is a number of possible chess games 10^123 or 10^300 or 10^(10^300). Chess isn't more complicated for God then tic-tac-toe, which has only few hundreds of possible lines. And God is also eternal, out-of-time, so she compute infinite fast.

We, human beings, could try to understend God by research her creation. And we are not restricted to this finite, material universe around us: we, as self-programing beings, also can exploit an infinite number of "virtual" worlds, in arts, philosphy, chess, love. This capability is her free gift to us: a revealation of her infinite love. (And chess it one of signs she realy love us! Cool)

And I am going to conclude this with a reference to Imanuel Kant: the only original sin is lazyness - i.e. to not use your capability to research, to uncerstand, to create, to love.


  • 8 years ago


    maby for god we are just like computers she can program by her misterious means.

  • 9 years ago


    bravo blonde, incitful piece. clok


  • 9 years ago


    if i make a marble statue it is a distinct "entity" from me. The 1929 film "un chien andalou" is a distinct "entity" from its director Luis Bunuel or its art-director Salvador Dali.

    So what you are saying : "this self-modification renders the computer a distinct entity from its maker or makers", is true, even without the qualification "this self-modification", but I dont quite understand the point you are trying to make in saying so.

    talking about programs,

    the following C-program is *not* the woman normajean though it is written by her, and is *not* self-modifying - but i dont quite see what that fact shows: 


               #include <stdio.h>


                {printf("zbx nrmjnyts posting on chssdtcm lotsss of msssprints



  • 9 years ago


    I am not sure that I can quantify how much less we can recall than a computer can.  And I was not claiming to be the first to come up with this idea.  All I was saying was that this self-modification renders the computer a distinct entity from its maker or makers, no?
  • 9 years ago


     Vance you wrote:

    "But with enough time and resources, the enumerative approach will still overtake the great player who uses only insight, plus a far less capacity for memory storage."

    Sorry that won't do, Vance! How much far less? "far less" fudges the above-quoted sentence so much that it almost deprives it of any content, dont you think?

    you wrote:

    Anyway, my primary point was that the computer can become like Dorian Gray (did you see that movie?) -- it changes while its maker stays the same.

    Trivial but proves zilch. Many early (*real* early) computer programs were self-modifying programs.

    -- no, don't recall having heard of the film ... i read the novel - i mean Oscar Wilde's "the picture of dorian gray" of course when i was a teenager - see my profile to get an idea of the kind of films i see...


  • 9 years ago


    You are right, the computer will not be able to gain insight the same way that we do (at least some of us!).  And of course this insight is more efficient than the enumerative approach I laid out and you confirmed.  But with enough time and resources, the enumerative approach will still overtake the great player who uses only insight, plus a far less capacity for memory storage.  Anyway, my primary point was that the computer can become like Dorian Gray (did you see that movie?) -- it changes while its maker stays the same.
  • 9 years ago



    Crafty, the open-source program wriiten by Bob Hyatt, does much of that. Set learn 1, and whenever it loses a game it looks at the last move after which it lose and marks it as "dont play in this position". Also the probabilistic thing you describes - it uses it to crate its opening book - you can expand it by - i forgot the command - or you can modify source (i last modified serious code - crafty in 2000 - that serious code happened to be crafty- i am quite out of touch with *real* programming now, lost the inclination too) And crafty is still weaker than commercial closed-source programs.

    That sort of learning i believe will never produce the *aha!* effect ie coming up with new *concepts*, which is what I called learning. I have arguments on this, but they are rather technical and either very long  or assume familiarity with the debate and earlier papers. If you are the academic type, go to - type site --- that one prob'y wont have it - it is mainly theoretical physics and math --- do you have access to a good university-library?

    task : sketch the outline of a program P that figures out the operator which i will call " ^^* " in this paragraph. a^^*b (defined only for natural numbers) = a^a^a..^a (b times) + 235. for example , 3^^*3 would be = 3^3^3+235=3^9+235=19683+235=19918.

    Now it is trivial to write another program give the program P any number of examples of ^^*. eg P has in its database: 3 ^^* 3 = 19918, an a billion such examples.  The program P should be able to figure out what ^^* does (iterated exponentiation + 235) - it should demonstrate this by supplying correct answers to the query a^^*b where (a,b,a^^*b) is not in its database.

    No one knows how to do it. I conjecture that  it is in principle impossible.

    Of course that conjecture cannot be proven. But no one knows how to disprove it. 

  • 9 years ago


    Sorry I am so late in getting back to this dialogue (trialogue?), but anywhere, here are my views.  Suppose that none of us knew how to play chess at all.  So we would just randomly pick a piece, move it to a random square, and note if this move were allowed by the rules or not.  If so, then the move sticks.  If not, then we try again, until we get something that is legal.  And this is how we play chess.

    At some point, one of us hits upon the idea of using a computer to evolve.  We still can't play chess, and have no idea why some of these combinations of moves lead us to victory while others lead us to defeat, but we don't really care.  We are pragmatic, and simply play the winner.  So the computer tabulates game results by the moves we make, and we tell the computer to use weighted probabilities for moves, with the weights determined by our empirical winning probability when we play this move.  That is, suppose that we have a choice of three legal moves, say A, B, or C.  We note that we have been here before, and that in games in which we have played A, we win 80% of the time; B, 70%; C, 20%.  Now I fully realize that our wins and losses may have little to do with the choice of A, B, or C at this juncture, but we go with it anyway.

    We choose A with probability 0.8/1.7, B with probability 0.7/1.7, and C with probability 0.2/1.7 (1.7=0.8+0.7+0.2, so this is a constant needed to ensure a proper probability distribution).  And that's it.  Our input is done.  The computer now has a feedback loop that enables it to learn from its experience.  In theory, so humble a routine will eventually become unbeatable, even while we, the programmers, remain completely ignorant of chess theory.

    Along these same lines, would it be nice to have universal conditional moves here at  At least as a default.  Imagine being told, every time you find yourself in a situation you have encountered before, what move(s) you made before, and the outcomes of those games.  Then you are free to select one of those previously made moves, or a different one, but at least the reminder is there.  I wonder how feasible that would be.

  • 9 years ago


  • 9 years ago


    @normajeanyates: it's interesting that you use franch terms:

    Or in existentialist terms, en-soi cannot have that ability, only pour-soi can.

     i.e. translations of originally german terms, An-sich and für-sich. You probably confirm my prejudice about english as a language of philosophy. Smile


  • 9 years ago


    LydiaBlonde, there is no currently known way to make a program learn *ideas* from experience.

    That's the debate - neo-Kantians including me believe that it is in principle impossible [because the ability to learn *concepts* from examples is one of Kant's synthetic a prioris - non-living entities just cannot have that ability] Or in existentialist terms, en-soi cannot have that ability, only pour-soi can.

    The neofunctionalists and behaviourists believe otherwise.


  • 9 years ago


    Hi, Vance! I am glad to see somebody is interested in a subject!

    OK, so if one programs a computer to learn from its mistakes, and to evolve into a better and better player the more it plays, then does it not take on its own identity as a unique non-human player?

     I am not so good in cibernetics and programing, but I suppose It's easy to make a program ("computer") who learn. It's enough to include a memory, and it can learn from experience.

    However - it's still inside a borders of the program. There are tens or hundreds of programs in your and my PC, as like as there are a lot of programs inside your and my brain. However, as I wrote, we have a special ability to wrote our own programs (we don't wrote ALL our programs, of course). And we are more then the mere sum of our programs - we have "free will", "self", njem: die selbstheit. We have an ability for  selbststgegenstand, to-place-yourself (I don't know to say it in english philosophycal terminology - even I am not sure if it exist).

     It's nothing mistical. An example: few days ago, I found here on personal pages of one member that he plays also shogy, a variation of chess. I was interested, and I found something on the Internet and read about rules of shogy. It means: I start to program myself to play shogy!

    I can instal a program for shogy on my computer, if somebody wrote it - but my computer can't decide about it.

    Could we construct one day a computer (robot, android) who will be able for this kind of self-programing?  Maybe. I mention the android Data from Start Trek - Next Generation: In the episode "In Theory" he need to date Tongue out with a woman, and  he write a program for it. 

    However, our computers today are still only a tool - no more "self" then a simple hammer.



  • 9 years ago


    Vance917, having said that - i read your last line much more carefully - "does it not take on its own identity as a unique non-human player" -  well that is subjective and it could be that you are not making a strong-AI claim - you are not saying that the program is "sentient". After all we do'nt *know* that people we see in real life are not machines - we just infer that they aren't by analogy ith ourselves.

    ["we" above excludes behaviourists and neo-functionalists.]

  • 9 years ago


    Vance917, you'd  have to program *how* it is to "learn" ie you have to put in a digitised definition of learning - which i believe is impossible. How do you program the *aha* effect? People have tried with interesting but failed effects [once i was a strong-AI-researcher - not because i agreed with strong-AI (which is your position vis a vis machine-chess-learning) but to see the interesting programs that would result from the projects I was in]

    It is basically neo-functionalism/misapplication-of-Jean_Piaget on your side of the argument, and Kant/Chomsky and Sartre - and indeed all existentialists - Kierkegaard and Heidegger included - on mine. (John Searle et al, and the mystics,  are also on my side of the argument - but i dont care for Searle&co's agreement, and I dont want to bring in mysticism because it is not needed against your particular argument).

    However, I am all for continual reseach into and implementation of chess-programs-with-evolution-by-learning ability. To see the interesting programs that may result from said research. 

     Also, (simulated) genetic algorithms are also algorithms - in principle convertible to a halting turing machine!  (and this has nothing to do with the insolvility of the TM halting problem - I'm talking about a TM designed to halt.)

  • 9 years ago


    Very well written, and I do not disagree with you at all.  Still, I would like to draw a distinction by way of an analogy.  You are a great chess player, and I am not.  OK, so you teach me how to play chess.  You also teach m brother.  You give us a list of reactions, as in, when we see this situation, we react as follows.  If this is our only source of chess knowledge, then we are identical players, both poor imitations of you.  We seek only to emulate your play, and of course are imperfect in how we fare in this endeavor.

    But of course you would not teach us to memorize reactions.  Rather, you would teach us a way to think for ourselves.  We would analyze, and learn from our mistakes.  Maybe we would even learn from mistakes we do NOT make.  When we do this, we distinguish ourselves from each other, and from you.  Not in this case of course, but in some cases, the student can overtake the master in this way.

    OK, so if one programs a computer to learn from its mistakes, and to evolve into a better and better player the more it plays, then does it not take on its own identity as a unique non-human player?

  • 9 years ago


    wonderful posts - specially the second one!


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