Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Getting better thanks to technology



Humans Are Getting Better At Chess - Thanks to Computers

Alex Knapp, Contributor

8/10/2011 @ 12:09AM

A recent study suggests that there are more great chess players now than there ever have been – and that players continue to improve. The authors of the study noted and confirmed that the ELO rankings used to determine how good you are at chess have been stable over time — that is, unlike grades and health care costs, they haven’t seen any inflation. (Indeed, they may have seen a slight deflation.) Despite this, the number of high-ranked players is significantly higher:

In the 1970’s there were only two playerswith ratings over 2700, namely Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov, and there were years as late as 1981 when no one had a rating over 2700. In the past decade there have usuallybeen thirty or more players with such ratings. Thus lack of inflation implies that those playersare better than all but Fischer and Karpov were.

The authors don’t suggest a mechanism, but if I were to guess, I’d suggest that the reason for this has to do with competitive chess software and online play. When you can play chess on the computer, you don’t have to waste time setting up the board, finding other players, or anything else. The net result is that in the same amount of time, you can more games under your belt. Moreover, a lot of chess software will analyze your games for you and allow you to record them so you can examine your own play. All of these factors, I suggest, lead to a greater number of people having superior chess expertise.

What’s really fascinating about this is that if humans continue to perfect their games by practicing against computer opponents, it may be that humans catch back up to the best AI programs. It’ll be interesting to check out a game between a Grand Master and the best software in ten years’ time if the trend of stronger play continues. Between more practice playing computers, more games played, and the ability of the Internet to improve the collaborative study at chess, computers may end up having trouble competing with humans.

Source: Forbes.com