As a child I was a keen chess player but I have not played regularly for over 20 years. That has changed recently with technology giving me two new ways to play and practice. First, I have bought a chess computer game on my Sidekick II. I can now play a game in 5 minutes against a computer during idle times such as waiting for MUNI. Second, Auren Hoffman invited me to play online at Red Hot Pawn where you can play multiple asynchronous games against other people over the web. I am still playing my first game with Auren which started on February 19th. I must admit I am finding the lack of rhythm a challenge with a game spread out over several weeks but it's good to be playing a human being rather than a computer
Speaking of human beings vs computers, as I have been laid up in bed for a couple of days trying to shake off a virus, so in between sleeping and drinking lots of water I took the opportunity to watch the DVD Game Over about Gary Kasparov's chess match against IBM's Deep Blue in 1997. The premise of the documentary is intriguing - IBM cheated to beat Kasparov to bolster their flagging image - but the execution and evidence presented is circumstantial and hearsay at best. Putting aside the premise and just examining the trends - Kasparov beats computer in 1996, Kasparov loses to computer in 1997, Kasparov draws to computer in 2003 - the seemingly slower rate (backwards?) of innovation is in marked contrast to that shown in the DARPA Grand Challenge. Why is this?
The reason that first comes to mind is that the tasks differ in their complexity. My gut instinct is that the task of getting a car to autonomously drive from A to B on a known course is less complex than defeating the world's greatest chess player with more playing permutations than there are atoms in the universe. However, upon further reflection it's not clear that the number of known permutations is the best measure of complexity. The number of chess permutations is enormous (10 to the power of 120) but there is no element of randomness, unlike the DARPA Grand Challenge where the cars have to deal with other cars, weather conditions, changing gradients, etc.
I shall noodle on this some more, but it's a cautionary tale on extrapolating from just a few data points to a wider conclusion.