In the realm of game-playing, computers and humanity are running
Computers are better at checkers. People hold the edge in
bridge, Scrabble, and backgammon. And in chess, where the most
artificial-intelligence work has been done, a computer has never
beaten the reigning world champion in a full regulation match.
That is why tomorrow, when chess champion Garry Kasparov and
IBM's Deep Blue computer meet in New York to play the first game of
their six-game rematch, the world will be watching. The games
computers play tell us not only about the state of artificial
intelligence. They also reveal much about ourselves and the
complexity of human intelligence.
The message is a comforting one. Even though these machines are
beginning to beat us at our own games, their "smarts" and mankind's
intelligence are fundamentally different. Thus, the foreseeable
future will not entail some apocalyptic vision of mankind versus
machine. Overall, computers cannot match human wits. Instead,
artificial intelligence will complement real intelligence.
"I'm more and more impressed at how people work - that they can
do what they do," says Paul Rosenbloom, an artificial-intelligence
researcher at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
"The more we understand about how they work ... the more amazing we
think they are."
Knowledge researchers are gaining from game-playing computers is
being applied to a variety of fields, from calculating investment
decisions to scheduling transit routes to war games.
Dr. Rosenbloom's institute, for example, is working on computers
that simulate the behavior of helicopter pilots for the Pentagon's
simulated battles. The military needs the computerized "agents"
because it doesn't have the resources to conduct real war games
with tens of thousands of participants. At times, these computer
"agents" have worked on par with the tactics of a third-world
pilot; at other times, they've been incredibly stupid, as when the
company commander returned to base alone after a mission, not
realizing the need to bring back the rest of the team.
That's the problem with artificial intelligence. It doesn't come
with any built-in common sense. "One of the interesting things
we've learned through artificial intelligence ... is that
intelligence is very complicated," says Itiel Dror, a cognitive
neuroscientist at Miami University of Ohio in Oxford. Despite 40
years of work in the field, scientists cannot agree on a definition
Is IBM's Deep Blue chess computer intelligent? Its creators say
no, calling it a "turbo-charged expert system" instead. …