Thursday, November 11, 2010

Let's be less obscure....

Chess is certainly not a substitute for a liberal education (see the sad example of Bobby Fischer), just as, contra Wagner, a healthy culture requires a lot more than opera.  But chess, like music, adds immensely to a liberal education.  

One small example: in this information age, chess gives us insights into both the tremendous value and the sharp limits of computing operations.  My friends and I can't hope to compete with Rybka, but there's lot of chess understanding that we have--that YOU have, gentle reader--that hasn't be programmed into Rybka. and won't be, for years to come.  The human brain is uncannily good at "instinctive" knowledge: recognition of "fuzzy" patterns that computers can't interpret.  A simple example: CAPTCHA.  Experts often find it difficult to articulate the nature of their expert knowledge: see Jonah Lehrer's How We Decide for a wonderful introduction to this topic.

So what was the link to protein folding in the previous post all about?  Molecular biology is an information science, one in which computers are essential to research.  But humans can sometimes outperform computers in protein folding!  Keep in mind that the computers, as in chess, can calculate millions of more "variations" per second.  

And now I must do my football picks for the office pool....I picked New England, Detroit, and Buffalo last week, and finished dead last in a field of nineteen.


Maret said...

Dear Sir:

You have officially entered the Twilight Zone.

Happy slacker Friday.


Maret Thorpe

Bill Brock said...


I will try to explain AGAIN after I get thru the All Grade posts!

How do grandmasters play 50 players simultaneously? Are they calculating like computers on fifty boards? Or are they using expert intuition?