Saturday, 20 December 2008

Chess Quote - Richard Dawkins on Computer Chess and Humanity

Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL (1941-):

Professor Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist and science writer. He came to public attention in 1976 with the publication of his book 'The Selfish Gene'. In his latest book 'The God Delusion' (2006) he maintains that God (or supernatural creator) almost certainly does not exist. He further contends that as faith is a fixed false belief, then religious faith qualifies as a delusion. Dawkins retired from his Oxford University post as Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science (from 1995) in September 2008.
"Personally, I rather look forward to a computer program winning the world chess championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility."
(Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition, 2006)

The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition--with a New Introduction by the Author
Published by Oxford University Press, 2006
ISBN 0199291152, 9780199291151
360 pages

The context relevant section of the book (pages 276-277) containing the quote is below:
"Here, for instance is the Spectator's chess correspondent Raymond Keene, in the issue of 7 October 1988:
It is still something of a sensation when a titled player is beaten by a computer, but not, perhaps, for much longer. The most dangerous metal monster so far to challenge the human brain is the quaintly named 'Deep Thought', no doubt in homage to Douglas Adams. Deep Thought's latest exploit has been to terrorise human opponents in the US Open Championship, held in August in Boston. I still do not have DT's overall rating performance to hand, which will be the acid test of its achievement in an open Swiss system competition, but I have seen a remarkably impressive win against the strong Canadian Igor Ivanov, a man who once defeated Karpov! Watch closely; this may be the future of chess.
There follows a move-by-move account of the game. This is Keene's reaction to Deep Thought's Move 22:
A wonderful move ... The idea is to centralise the queen ... and this concept leads tp remarkable speedy success ... The startling outcome ... Black's queen's wing is now utterly demolished by the queen penetration.
Ivanov's reply to this is described as:
A desperate fling, which the computer contemptuously brushes aside ... The ultimate humiliation. DT ignores the queen recapture, steering instead for a snap checkmate ... Black resigns.
Not only is Deep Thought one of the world's top chess players. What I find almost more striking is the language of human consciousness that the commentator feels obliged to use. Deep Thought 'contemptuously brushes aside' Ivanov's 'desperate fling'. Deep Thought is described as 'aggressive'. Keene speaks of Ivanov as 'hoping' for some outcome, but his language shows that he would be equally happy using a word like 'hope' for Deep Thought. Personally I rather look forward to a computer program winning the world championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility."