A History of Computer Chess

Understanding the history of computer chess as a field for measuring the intelligence of machines (and humans) is crucial to developing Neosentient Games. At first, citing the Mechanical Turk as a starting point for this history seems like a misnomer. The Mechanical Turk exhibits no autonomy and, in fact, isn’t strictly a computer. However, since the Neosentient will be invented through anthromorphic introspection, perhaps the idea of an augmented human (or augmented computer) is a good place to start developing Neosentient Games. After loosing to Big Blue in 1997, Gary Kasparov invented a chess variant for augmented play. Many chess masters create variants based on their intimate knowledge of the sport, adding or omitting pieces and extending the board, but Kasparov’s version of chess incorporated focused on augmenting the original game of chess by giving each human player a mechanical team mate. In Kasparov’s Augmented Chess, each human player could query their computer assistant for information. Is this the beginning of Neosentient Games? How can we develop this field towards the notion of the Neosentient?


Artificial Artificial Intellegence

Amazon has recently launched a new service called the Amazon Mechanical Turk. They propose a casual labor system in which humans get payed to do simple tasks that are particularly difficult for computers to perform. You can view these “Human Intelligence Tasks” or HITs, and see how much money one might earn, here.

Some of the tasks include transcribing audio clips to text, finding urls containing specified information, labeling images with the appropriate tags, and even signing up for accounts on different websites. Amazon’s mechanical Turk is fascinating in the way it blends human and computer labor. The various logics required to complete each task are notable for being particularly human and requiring sentience. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk could function as a guide to certain pragmatic qualities of sentience.

On top of this, Amazon’s clear reference to the original Mechanical Turk is interesting and problematic. More soon on this…I’m thinking of both selling and buying some human labor as research for my project.

Benjamin’s Turk

In the opening paragraph of On the Concept of History (1939), Benjamin recounts the story of the Mechanical Turk:

It is well-known that an automaton once existed, which was so constructed that it could counter any move of a chess-player with a counter-move, and thereby assure itself of victory in the match. A puppet in Turkish attire, water-pipe in mouth, sat before the chessboard, which rested on a broad table. Through a system of mirrors, the illusion was created that this table was transparent from all sides. In truth, a hunchbacked dwarf who was a master chess-player sat inside, controlling the hands of the puppet with strings. One can envision a corresponding object to this apparatus in philosophy. The puppet called “historical materialism” is always supposed to win. It can do this with no further ado against any opponent, so long as it employs the services of theology, which as everyone knows is small and ugly and must be kept out of sight.