Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Afterthought on an earlier post: Territory vs. Influence

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I had a thought about an earlier post that described how an enlightened capitalist approach — giving workers a cut of the gains their productivity produces — instead of the common hypercapitalist approach — screwing as much as possible from the workers so that the gains flow solely to the capitalist — actually benefits everyone.

The thought was from an earlier post on Go (aka Baduk) that included an explanatory video that I believe is understandable even by those who do not play Go. The idea is that there are two styles of play, for territory (immediate gain) and influence (long-term gain), and those two approaches reflect what the typical capitalist approach is (immediate gain) and the KKR approach in the door factory (long-term gain).

The KKR post goes well with the Go post. Take a look and see whether you agree.

Written by Leisureguy

22 May 2023 at 2:17 pm

Agamator deems this the best chess game of 2023 (already)

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Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2023 at 10:22 am

Posted in Chess, Games, Video

Humans have improved at Go since AIs became best in the world

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In an earlier post, I argued that AI can clarify contentious propositions through an impartial debate, with an impartial Moderator declaring a winner. This is an example of using AI as a tool to explore a conceptual space.

In New Scientist Andrew Rosebaum describes the outcome of using another AI to explore a different conceptual space: the game of Go/Baduk. He writes:

AIs can beat the world’s best players at the board game Go, but humans are starting to improve too. An analysis of millions of Go moves has found that professional players have been making better and more original game choices since Go-playing AIs overtook humans.

Before 2016, AIs couldn’t beat the world’s best Go players. But this changed with an AI called AlphaGo developed by London-based research firm DeepMind. AlphaGo defeated multiple Go champions, including the then number one ranked human player.

Since then, other AIs have also been developed that are considered “superhuman”. Though they can be used simply as opposition players, they can also help analyse the quality of any given move and so act as a Go coach too.

Minkyu Shin at the City University of Hong Kong and his colleagues decided to investigate whether the introduction of these superhuman Go-playing AIs has led to a marked improvement in human play.

The researchers gathered a data set consisting of 5.8 million move decisions by professional players between 1950 and 2021. They then used a Go-playing AI to help calculate a measure called a “decision quality index”, or DQI, which assesses the quality of a move. They deemed a move “novel” if it had not been previously attempted in combination with the preceding moves.

The analysis found that human players had made significantly better and more novel moves in response to the 2016 advent of superhuman AI. Between 1950 and 2015, the improvement in quality of play was comparatively small, with a median annual DQI oscillating between roughly -0.2 and 0.2.  Whereas after superhuman AI, the DQI leapt upward, with median values above 0.7 from 2018 to 2021. In 2015, 63 per cent of games showed novel strategies, whereas by 2018, that figure had risen to 88 per cent.

Stuart Russell at the University of California, Berkeley, says that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2023 at 3:16 pm

A wonderful saga of pinball-machine repair

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Over and over I discover that things of which I have little knowledge turn out to be devilishly complicated and require true expertise for effective action. In other words, the less I know about something, the simpler it seems, but as I learn more, I find it’s more complex, and the more I learn and experience, the more complex it becomes.

Everything seems easy to those inexperienced and ignorant, but the reality generally is not like that.

I learned this first-hand when I was a programmer and some nontechnical manager would want a change, which was generally couched in terms of “just,” as in “just move this to there,” or “just add a button to do X,” showing total ignorance of both programming and user-interaction design. But to the ignorant manager, the change was no big deal. House builders, I’m told, run into this a lot with the person for whom the house is being built. “Just move the tub to the other side of the bathroom.”

Of course, this problem is much easier to recognize when you are the expert than when you are the one who’s ignorant, for the ignorant experience the Dunning-Kruger phenomenon: they do not know what they do not know — that is, they lack enough knowledge to recognize their ignorance, so they feel unwarranted confidence in their judgments. We all play both roles: when we have experience and knowledge in an area, we recognize the complexity, but when we view an area in which we are ignorant, it all looks rather simple.

There’s a long thread on Mastodon by Dan Fixes Coin-Ops that is a fun read and also reveals something of (a) the expertise required to do good pinball-machine design and the expertise in repairing pinball machines and (b) what happens when people lacking expertise design and build a pinball machine.

The thread begins with this post:

Me, inside a modern Stern pinball: “Man, Stern suck. I wish Williams had stuck around.”
Me, inside any other new manufacturer: “Oh my god Stern are amazing”

Written by Leisureguy

3 March 2023 at 8:20 am

3D printed basketball — no inflating required

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Seems there’s a trend to make inflated things — tires, soccer balls, and now basketballs — not require inflating.

Jesus Diaz reports in Fast Company — and also:

Written by Leisureguy

24 February 2023 at 12:15 pm

The Achilles’ Heel of AI Go Programs

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Fascinating article in Financial Times shows that AI programs don’t generalize as humans do. From the article:

The tactics used by Pelrine involved slowly stringing together a large “loop” of stones to encircle one of his opponent’s own groups, while distracting the AI with moves in other corners of the board. The Go-playing bot did not notice its vulnerability, even when the encirclement was nearly complete, Pelrine said.

“As a human it would be quite easy to spot,” he added.

The discovery of a weakness in some of the most advanced Go-playing machines points to a fundamental flaw in the deep learning systems that underpin today’s most advanced AI, said Stuart Russell, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The systems can “understand” only specific situations they have been exposed to in the past and are unable to generalise in a way that humans find easy, he added.

“It shows once again we’ve been far too hasty to ascribe superhuman levels of intelligence to machines,” Russell said.

The player, apparently an amateur 1D, won 14 of the 15 games played against the AI.

Written by Leisureguy

19 February 2023 at 9:50 am

What a (chess) game!

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Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2023 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Chess, Games, Video

Searchable database of chess videos

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I greatly enjoy Agadmator’s YouTube chess channel because his brief video commentaries on chess games from tournaments and from history are always illuminating and enjoyable — and by now he has done more than 3000 videos. 

In a video I saw this morning, he told how someone has made a database of all his videos, so that you can filter by player (and whether the player was White or Black, if you want that), by opening, and so on. 

I used it this morning to look for games in which Magnus Carlsen played White in the Evans Gambit. Only two games, but I found them instantly:

A page showing a result of a search of a chess database having applied filters for player (Magnus Carlsen) and opening (Evans Gambit). Two games are identified.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2023 at 10:51 am

Territory and Influence: Yin and Yang of Go Game

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I realize — or at least suspect — that many of my readers do not yet play Go, but I like to offer encouragement to learn. This video, by Go Magic, has a clear explanation of some aspects of the play of Go, explained in a way that I think can be appreciated by nonplayers:

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2023 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Games, Go/Baduk, Video

On dry spells and unconscious work

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Timothy Wilson’s book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious helped me better understand some of the processes that make up “me,” and how great a role unconscious processes — of which, of course, we have no awareness (though occasional glimpses) — play in that.

It came up recently in an exchange on Mastodon, when someone wrote about how a protracted dry spell is often a secretly fertile time when unconscious processes are working out what will drive us forward.

During the dry spell, we are not aware of the unconscious processes at work, so the time feels fallow even though our unconscious is busily at work, constructing new connections and new channels. 

During these dry spells, we don’t feel calm and relaxed but almost tense with an effort to make something happen, to break through. It occurred to me that perhaps what we feel is spillover from the unconscious activity — we feel the effort, but we don’t see what is causing it or what it is accomplishing. We’re bystanders on the conscious side of a semi-permeable wall and what comes through is not what’s being done by the emotional component of the work. And because we don’t see what is happening — all that must be done to connect things and make new channels — we are impatient. We feel as though we (our conscious selves) are making the effort and nothing is happening. I think that we are, rather, feeling the effort and don’t know enough to be patient and wait for the result to be achieved. The prototypical example is the adult starting to learn to play the piano. He wants to play easily at first and he feels the effort as the unconscious works to sort out the new skill, but he thinks the effort is in his conscious mind driving his fingers over the keys. He must do that, but that’s not the real effort (which is giving the unconscious the practice it needs to learn) and the sense of effort is, I think, what leaks through from the unconscious’s struggle to integrate this skill.

This sort of spillover from our unconscious work is more evident when someone first starts learning the game of Go/Baduk — something I recommend (see this site). Go depends heavily on pattern recognition, and that unconscious facility — the pattern-recognition subroutine, as it were — is employed in many spheres, such as learning a language, learning to play music, learning dance or sports — and learning Go.

In Go, a stone or a group of stones is captured (and removed from the board) when it (or they) are not connected to any vacant intersections — when they are smothered, as it were. A single stone on the board — not on an edge — is connected to 4 vacant intersections: one above and one below, and one to either side. When three of these are occupied, the stone can be taken on the next move.

Early in the process of learning Go, people suddenly start feeling that in real-life contexts. If they are in a group with someone on either side and they’re talking to someone in front of them, they will suddenly feel the danger that if someone comes up behind them, they will be captured. It’s a feeling, not a conscious thought, and it’s distinct.

Or in driving on a multilane highway, if they have a car on either side and they come closer to a car in front, they will feel that a car behind them will capture them.

I think these feelings are spillovers from the unconscious at work — and specifically that unconscious pattern-recognition subroutine. It’s working so hard to integrate these new patterns into its library that they spill over into the conscious mind. If you have ever learned a foreign language, you will have noticed the same feelings of effort and the occasional lifting of a veil when a string of gibberish switches into a clear thought.

Freud thought that the unconscious would slip through when the conscious mind was distracted — the famous Freudian slip, when one blurts out something that they may not consciously have thought to say. The usual explanation is that the error was because one was tired or distracted, but as Freud pointed out, that is like attributing a robbery on a dark and isolated street to the darkness and isolation. Those are not what robbed the person; they just provided the conditions for a robbery. The robber took advantage of the darkness and isolation to strike, just as the unconscious takes advantage of the conscious self’s being tired or distracted to come into the open.

Nowadays, I don’t consider this view so valid as I once did. It strikes me as giving the conscious self more power and autonomy than it actually possesses. The conscious self seems more like the passenger in a howdah on an elephant. The elephant — the unconscious — goes and does what it wants, and the passenger makes up reasons why he wanted to go there and do that. (This is particularly evident in stage acts in which hypnotized people are given post-hypnotic suggestions to someone to, say, squawk like a chicken when they hear the word “book.” When “book” is said and the person squawks, if you ask them why they did that, they will come up with various reasons — the conscious mind is a rationalizing engine. This is familiar to people who attempt to rely on willpower to diet: their conscious mind can come up with lots of reasons to eat what they want.)

Wilson’s book, mentioned above, is in the list of books I find myself repeatedly recommending, and another book in that list is relevant to this topic: Daniel Goleman’s Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception. That book discusses how the unconscious pulls the wool over the eyes of the conscious — and why it does that. It’s a book well worth reading since it can help you spot some instances when your own unconscious spills over into the open. Initially, that can be hard to recognize, because we have somehow trained ourselves not to see it, not to be aware of it. But with practice, you can see it at work.

Here’s another book very much on that topic, in which Marion Milner describes her own journey of discovery to see what her own unconscious mind was up to. The encounters are interesting and in some cases have quite practical application. This book, too, is found on that booklist. It is A Life of One’s Own.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2023 at 11:46 am

A nice explanation of a Go game

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For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, many people do not yet play Go. But I think even those who haven’t yet learned Go might enjoy this brief video. (And see also: AlphaGo.)

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2023 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Games, Go/Baduk, Video

Playing games to help research

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Gamification motivates people to participate in experiments through competition, fun and the opportunity to learn about themselves. Here are some games to try out:

  • Which English? A viral grammar test that tries to identify which “world English” someone speaks, as part of language research.
  • Are you a Super-Listener? A citizen-science experiment in which participants try to detect musical harmonies in scrambled tones.
  • Glyph: An online gaming applet to explore the shape of letters in the world’s writing systems.
  • Moral Machine: A platform for gathering a human perspective on moral decisions made by machine intelligence.
  • Visual Vocab: An online assessment of vocabulary knowledge across the lifespan.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2023 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games, Science

A strange golf story

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Caleb Hanning’s 9-year-old article in Grantland is fascinating. It begins:

Strange stories can find you at strange times. Like when you’re battling insomnia and looking for tips on your short game.

It was well past midnight sometime last spring and I was still awake despite my best efforts. I hadn’t asked for those few extra hours of bleary consciousness, but I did try to do something useful with them.

I play golf. Sometimes poorly, sometimes less so. Like all golfers, I spend far too much time thinking of ways to play less poorly more often. That was the silver lining to my sleeplessness — it gave me more time to scour YouTube for tips on how to play better. And it was then, during one of those restless nights, that I first encountered Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, known to friends as Dr. V.

She didn’t appear in the video. As I would later discover, it’s almost impossible to find a picture, let alone a moving image, of Dr. V on the Internet. Instead, I watched a clip of two men discussing the radical new idea she had brought to golf. Gary McCord did most of the talking. A tournament announcer for CBS with the mustache of a cartoon villain, McCord is one of the few golf figures recognizable to casual sports fans because he’s one of the few people who ever says anything interesting about the sport.

The video was shot in March of last year, when McCord was in California for an event on the Champions Tour, the 50-and-over circuit on which he occasionally plays. In it, he explained that he had helped Dr. V get access to the nearby putting green, where he said she was currently counseling a few players. She was an aeronautical physicist from MIT, he continued, and the woman who had “built that Yar putter with zero MOI.” The credentials were impressive, but the name “Yar” and the acronym were unfamiliar.

According to McCord, before building her putter Dr. V had gone back and reviewed all the patents associated with golf, eventually zeroing in on one filed in 1966 by Karsten Solheim. As the creator of Ping clubs, Solheim is the closest thing the game has to a lovable grandfather figure. He was an engineer at General Electric before becoming one of the world’s most famous club designers, and his greatest gift to the sport was his idea to shift the weight in a club’s face from the middle to its two poles. This innovation may sound simple, but at the time it was revolutionary enough to make Solheim one of the richest men in America and the inventor of one of the most copied club designs in history. In Dr. V’s estimation, however, Solheim was nothing but a hack. “The whole industry followed [that patent],” she told McCord. “You’re using pseudoscience from the ’50s in golf!”

As the video went on, McCord told the story of how he had arranged a meeting between Dr. V and an executive at TaylorMade, the most successful clubmaker in the world, whose products McCord also happened to endorse. The gist of that meeting: This previously unknown woman had marched up to one of the most powerful men in golf and told him that everything his company did was wrong. “She just hammered them on their designs,” McCord said. “Hammered them.”

I was only half-awake when I watched the clip, but even with a foggy brain I could grasp its significance. McCord is one of golf’s most candid talkers — his method of spiking the truth with a dash of humor famously cost him the chance to continue covering the Masters after the schoolmarms who run the tournament objected to his description of one green as so fast that it looked like it had been “bikini-waxed.” This respected figure was saying that this mysterious physicist had a valuable new idea. But the substance of that idea wasn’t yet clear — over time, I would come to find out that nothing about Dr. V was, and that discovery would eventually end in tragedy. That night, however, all I knew was that I wanted to know more. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2023 at 2:42 pm

Making Go boards and Shogi boards

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Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 5:58 pm

Amazing checkmate

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Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2023 at 7:50 am

Posted in Chess, Games, Video

Who is Honinbo Jowa? The Story of One of the Strongest Meijin in Japanese Go History

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I don’t post much Go stuff, but this video seems exceptionally clear — especially if you’ve seen (say) The Surrounding Game, an excellent documentary that explains Go very well. I believe the movie is available in the US on Prime Video. The first half gives a history of the game to provide a context for the second half. It’s well worth watching, and if you do watch it, this brief video will be more accessible even if you are not yet a Go player.

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2022 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Games, Go/Baduk, Video

An old-school chess attack

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This is terrific.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2022 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Chess, Daily life, Games

List of common misconceptions

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16 October 2022 at 5:55 am

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Sensational Title Winning Century in the Hong Kong Masters 2022 Final

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Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2022 at 9:19 am

Posted in Games, Snooker

Rugby vs. American football

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It sure seems like Rugby is a better game — more vigorous and active, and played without body armor and helmets, and more of a team game. But what do I know? 

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2022 at 10:25 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Games

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