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?



Neosentient Play 1.1

What is the aesthetic of sentience? How does it feel? If a machine feels sentient do we treat it differently? Is there benevolence in the neosentient embrace?

It seems possible, as a step towards neosentience, to model not sentience, but its aesthetic. Can we build a scenario in which we feel benevolence or must we first build the neosentient machine? In 1947, Alan Turing wrote “Intelligent Machinery,” where he first devised a test to verify intelligence. Turing writes:

It is not difficult to devise a paper machine which will play a not very bad game of chess. Now get three men as subjects for the experiment. A, B and C. A and C are to be rather poor chess players, B is the operator who works the paper machine. … Two rooms are used with some arrangement for communicating moves, and a game is played between C and either A or the paper machine. C may find it quite difficult to tell which he is playing. (Turing)

It is no coincidence that chess is an important medium in the history of mechanic intelligence. Whether Teletype or a game of chess, communication between two entities occurs through some medium. The more articulate the medium, the more intelligent the machine must be. Because chess is based on a finite set of rules that, when combined, produce emergent forms of play, it seems like a ripe form for simulating an aesthetic of sentience. If the first computer was a person, then the first computer game might be the Mechanical Turk. But what is play to a machine?

Applying a game studies approach to the rich history of artificial intelligence, I hope to begin the development of an experiment game engine for facilitating neosentient play. I want to develop plans for a playful computer. My project begins with a study of the history of computer games, starting with chess games, and moves toward developing a new game based on this research.