Robots Teach Humans How to Play Chess
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Dr. Zeebot, in what ways have humans learned to play chess from robots?
Well, Baggy, humans have been playing chess for many years and before we robots became
interested they had developed traditions and written various books on chess. There were
standard openings, but not as many as there are now with our robotic databases.
In other words, human traditions did not home in on all of the variations in optimal playing.
Yes, Baggy, and it took awhile for robots to learn repetitive moves and blocking responses.
When humans play these days, they are better prepared because they have practiced with the
robotic databases. Typically those humans who rise to the very top have strong creative skills.
Chess playing robots are so common that we are finding many more human chess prodigies than
And they mature at a more rapid pace, don't they, Dr. Zeebot? Given this fact, don't you think
that humans will notice this and use us robots to teach their students more often?
The change in human chess education has come within the last 10 to 15 years. Even with the
resistance of the conservative teaching profession, it hardly seems that they can maintain old-
fashioned methods much longer.
Is it a matter that humans relate better to human teachers and therefore the human teachers are
Perhaps we need to start with the young students. I have noticed that young children especially
relate to robots quite well.
The point here is that humans have changed their "intuitions" while playing against
computers. In other words, human traditions did not home in on optimal playing.
Robots need to add repetitive moves and blocking responses.
1. Databases equalize preparation opportunities for the top players. Those who rise
to the very top have very strong creative skills. In relative terms, being a chess "grind"
is worth less than in times past.
2. If the computer is set at 2200 strength, "me plus the computer" (I override it every
now and then) almost always beats "the computer alone." Often we beat "the computer
alone" very badly. If the computer is set at full strength, my counsel is worth much less,
although it is not valueless.
3. With a computer set at full strength, the useful "team" requires a much stronger
human team member than I. The required education level — for the team's "wage
premium" — is ratcheted up.
4. Chess is an area where educational reform has been extremely rapid and extremely
successful. Chess education today revolves around learning how to learn from the
computer, and this change has come within the last ten to fifteen years. No
intermediaries were able to prevent it or slow it down. Humans now teach themselves
how to team with computers, and the leading human players have to be very good at this.
The computers which most successfully team with humans are those which replicate most rapidly.
5. There are many more chess prodigies than ever before, and they mature at a more rapid pace.
6. We used to think that computers would play chess like we did, only "without the mistakes."
We now know that playing without the mistakes involves a very different style from what
we had imagined. A lot of human positional intuitions are garbage, and the computer
can make sense out of ugly-looking moves. A lot of the human progress since then has
involved unlearning previous positional rules and realizing how contingent they are.
Younger players, who grew up playing chess with computers, are especially good at this.
For older players, it is a good way to learn how unreliable your intuitions can be.
7. Highly exact and concrete analysis, and calculation of variations, is now the centerpiece
of grandmaster chess at top levels. We have learned how to become more like the
computers. The computers have taught us well.
8. Chess-playing computers still are not meta-rational. They do not understand what
they do not understand very well, for instance blocked positions and long sequences of
repetition. That is one reason why human-computer teams are so important and so