Posted by: Dylan | March 7, 2009

The Mind and the Machine (part 1)

I have not written a post in quite a while. I have not been focusing enough of my free time into doing something productive, but I am going to try and follow a more regular schedule for blog posts. If I want this blog to go anywhere, I need to make more of a commitment to it. I need to sit down and write even though I may not always feel the desire to do so. Creativity is work; I need to toil longer.

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Many abstract strategy games have a enduring appeal. This is due to their dual simplicity and depth. An abstract strategy game is game in which there is no element of chance and there is no unknown information. All the moves or plays that have been made are clear to see. In essence, an abstract strategy game is a series of puzzles that all operate on the same foundation. Each turn the player must decide what course of action is best given the situation. Each game is a battle of logic and ingenuity. The premise is often simple, but the strategies and tactics are incredibly complex.

Two of the most well known abstract strategy games are chess and go. I assume that you all have heard of and understand chess, but go is not as widespread in the United States. The game of go originated in China. It is usually played on a 19 by 19 board. The board starts empty, and each turn players place a piece down anywhere on the board in an attempt to capture enemy pieces and secure the most territory by enclosing a section of the board. Go is a game of strategy, whereas chess is a game of tactics. In go, there is often a lot of empty space and the player must have a general idea of the ebb and flow of the game. In chess, the number of moves available is reduced, but the possibilities still very complex. It is a small scale battle where a one square shift of a piece may completely change the game.

The simple ruleset and complex possibilities inherent in both games make them very interesting for mathematical and algorithmic purposes. During the last half of the 20th century a number of chess programs were developed. The skill of these programs grew, and in 1997 Deep Blue, created by IBM, defeated Gary Kasparov, a reigning World Champion. From the point of artificial intelligence, chess programs are very simple. They simply employ brute force to explore a huge number of future moves and evaluate each of these future positions by having point values for each of them.

There has been no go program capable of defeating a World Champion. This is because the go board is so much larger and their are many more possible moves. The concept of territory is much harder for a computer to understand than the concept of capturing a specific piece. The brute force method simply does not work in this case. In order for a go program to play at a high level, it would need to have a better artificial intelligence.

The computer and the human brain appear to be fundamentally different. A human is capable of developing its mind, self-awareness, and a thought process devoid of systematic rules. A computer uses a set series of logic statements, loops, and commands to operate. The machine creates outcomes or “thoughts” using axioms and a strict set of rules. The mind is a medley of emotion, desire, rationality, reasoning, and the subconscious. Hence the mind is like a painting or a story, and the machine is like a science. The mind is interpretive. The machine is absolute.

The workings of our world are increasingly becoming more predictable due to numerous scientific developments. The path and behaviors of a proton can be predicted, the effects of an electrical current can be analyzed, and the mystery of the human brain is being unraveled. If every fundamental element, particle, or wave has a set of behavior patterns, then the mind is predictable as well. The human is composed of organs, which are composed of cells composed of elements, which contain protons and electrons. Complex systems are simply groups of less complex systems. The brain is composed of neurons. Neurons are nervous cells that process and transmit information by electrochemical signaling. Since the components of the brain follow scientific rules, then it can be inferred that the brain has a ruleset it obeys as well. The mind is like a machine.

If the mind has a strict set of rules and axioms that produce its abilities of thought, then is the mind always going to behave the same way under the same circumstances? Is there such a thing as free choice? How is it that we can be self-aware, ever evolving, and conscious? How can a machine be a human? In part two we will further explore the relation between the mind and the machine.



  1. D-mac:

    Very thought provoking. Think about it!

    I look forward to part two.

    One question — how do you know that neurons are nervous?

    Keep up the good work.


  2. The human mind is a wonderfully, complex yet a dangerous organ. It amazes me how a ccomplished man sets himself out to be yet in 2009, a time where we have become “more civilized”, educated and technology savvy, we still destroy each other and things by greed, envy and the need for power and control. Toward that end, machines will always be machines and do as they are purposed to do and in my mind man will always be man….always recreating history of past…as a human race (the human mind) we still don’t learn from past mistakes because certain “beings” don’t want to be controlled – they want to control and have power over others. Machines/computers are better than humans because in some respects becasue if designed to do good things they will always do good things, however, man is anything but. I hope you know I use the word “man” broadly because there are good people in this world but “man” are there some really bad people who make life hard for people and the world at large. The human mind and being is very complex therefore they create complexity when it isn’t necessary to have it. This comment comes from someone who desires PEACE and JUSTICE in all things….I wish and hope to see that come to fruition but I am old enough now to know I may never possible see that day BUT I hope and have faith that you and my children do!!! But, it may take work on all your parts. Your generation has certainly evolved and become more aware of the “world” issues at large rather than just your backyard and local community….that alone will make a difference.

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