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Old 6th August 2022, 07:24 PM   #1
The Atheist
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A Game a Computer Cannot Beat

Chess? Big deal - the moves are limited to what's possible, and as any pro poker will tell you, poker is all about the odds, so ideal for a computer. Bridge? Pathetically stupid game that a clever 7-year-old can win at.

There is a game I seriously doubt a computer's ability to win: Spades, the four-player version.

If you don't know the game well, you probably won't get it, but I'm supremely confident that with one of my two regular partners, a pair of computers* could not beat us.

The problem for a computer is that it will rely on logic, and you can win at spades by playing illogically. I don't see any way you could build a Deep Blue to cope with the infinite ability of the human brain to think outside the framework of logical conclusions.

*They cannot communicate with each other during play, just as the human players can't.
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Old 6th August 2022, 07:37 PM   #2
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No computer will ever beat Tic-Tac-Toe.
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Old 6th August 2022, 07:49 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Chess? Big deal - the moves are limited to what's possible, and as any pro poker will tell you, poker is all about the odds, so ideal for a computer. Bridge? Pathetically stupid game that a clever 7-year-old can win at.

There is a game I seriously doubt a computer's ability to win: Spades, the four-player version.

If you don't know the game well, you probably won't get it, but I'm supremely confident that with one of my two regular partners, a pair of computers* could not beat us.

The problem for a computer is that it will rely on logic, and you can win at spades by playing illogically. I don't see any way you could build a Deep Blue to cope with the infinite ability of the human brain to think outside the framework of logical conclusions.

*They cannot communicate with each other during play, just as the human players can't.
I doubt this is the case. And I doubt you're really playing "illogically" and winning, I suspect what you're really doing is just taking big risks.

For a long time, what computers couldn't beat top humans at was go. The difficulty for early computer program attempts was that the number of possible moves and board states grows so fast that computers simply couldn't brute force the calculations to any significant depth. And while computers have gotten faster, the exponential nature of the problem means that even today, brute force still doesn't get you very far. Computationally, brute forcing go is exponentially harder to do than chess. The rules are simpler, but the number of board positions and thus possible board states is vastly larger.

But computers cracked the problem a few years ago. They can now beat top humans regularly. And basically the trick is that you don't have to brute force it. You can evaluate board states and possible moves much more efficiently than just looking at every possibility. The top go programs would be classified as "AI", but really, what we've managed to do is just find more efficient algorithms.

Now, maybe Spades is the sort of game where brute force won't produce good results. I'm not familiar with the game, but given the size of possible deck orders (52! is too large a number for any computer to work with) that's certainly possible. But humans play it, which means we do something other than brute force it. I see no reason to think that computers cannot do the same for Spades as they did for Go, provided people put in the resources.

Of course, it may be that no one ever does put in the resources, in which case you might be (sort of) right.
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Old 7th August 2022, 02:12 AM   #4
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Well I am pretty sure there is no way that a computer could beat Captain Kirk at "Fizzbin"
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Old 7th August 2022, 02:47 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
Now, maybe Spades is the sort of game where brute force won't produce good results.
It won't. It's the only game where having good cards can be a liability, because the other team can bid zero.

Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
I'm not familiar with the game, but given the size of possible deck orders (52! is too large a number for any computer to work with) that's certainly possible. But humans play it, which means we do something other than brute force it. I see no reason to think that computers cannot do the same for Spades as they did for Go, provided people put in the resources.
You really need to have a good understanding of the game to get what I mean. The number of combinations doesn't really matter, because it's about how the cards are played as much as what they are.

Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
Of course, it may be that no one ever does put in the resources, in which case you might be (sort of) right.
Sadly, that's going to be the case.
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Old 7th August 2022, 03:48 AM   #6
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I don’t know if any of you followed when Alpha Zero’s (the AI machine) took on the brute force animal Stockfish, which has many times the computing power of Alpha Zero. Stockfish didn’t win one game in 100, but drew some.

Alpha Zero was given the rules of chess and proceeded to break all the rules of human chess (moving pieces more than once in opening moves, doubling pawns, using the King as an attacking piece).

So if Alpha Zero was set up to take on Spades, I would put my house on it.
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Old 7th August 2022, 03:50 AM   #7
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I thought it was Go that computers could not beat, but maybe lately this has been conquered.
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Old 7th August 2022, 04:02 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Samson View Post
I thought it was Go that computers could not beat, but maybe lately this has been conquered.
Yes, by Alpha Zero.
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Old 7th August 2022, 04:03 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Samson View Post
I thought it was Go that computers could not beat, but maybe lately this has been conquered.
Yes. Here's a brilliant documentary about it.

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:05 AM   #10
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:12 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Chess? Big deal - the moves are limited to what's possible, and as any pro poker will tell you, poker is all about the odds, so ideal for a computer. Bridge? Pathetically stupid game that a clever 7-year-old can win at.

There is a game I seriously doubt a computer's ability to win: Spades, the four-player version.

If you don't know the game well, you probably won't get it, but I'm supremely confident that with one of my two regular partners, a pair of computers* could not beat us.

The problem for a computer is that it will rely on logic, and you can win at spades by playing illogically. I don't see any way you could build a Deep Blue to cope with the infinite ability of the human brain to think outside the framework of logical conclusions.

*They cannot communicate with each other during play, just as the human players can't.
I don't think you know how a self-learning, neural network operates.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:16 AM   #12
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If there are statistically beneficial decision to be made, a computer can identify the best ones far better than a human.

If there aren't, well, then you have a game of pure chance.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:27 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by trustbutverify View Post
I don't think you know how a self-learning, neural network operates.
Thatís right. Hence Alpha Zero.

I really urge people, particularly those who understand chess, or check out the Alpha Zero/Stockfish games.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:38 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Thatís right. Hence Alpha Zero.

I really urge people, particularly those who understand chess, or check out the Alpha Zero/Stockfish games.
Not to mention that Stockfish has only been able to maintain it's (now shaky) supremacy by integrating a powerful neural net into the system.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:47 AM   #15
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AlphaZero played moves that Go experts - until then - would have said were bad moves, but it still won. Also its style was quite different to the human experts in that it played to win but didn't distinguish between a win by 1/2 a point or 40 points, again different to how human experts played, presumably because of human "ego".
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:55 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
AlphaZero played moves that Go experts - until then - would have said were bad moves, but it still won. .
Yes, just as with chess. Iím certain Alpha Zero will beat anyone at Spades.
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Old 7th August 2022, 02:50 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by trustbutverify View Post
I don't think you know how a self-learning, neural network operates.
Pretty sure I do, while I'm certain you don't know how to play spades.

Originally Posted by Olmstead View Post
If there are statistically beneficial decision to be made, a computer can identify the best ones far better than a human.

If there aren't, well, then you have a game of pure chance.
Nope, also wrong, because statistics are irrelevant. No matter how smart you make the computer, it can't know what's in the other 3 hands.
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Old 7th August 2022, 02:50 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
They cannot communicate with each other during play, just as the human players can't.
The human players do communicate. Information about their hands is exchanged by their bids and the cards they play. Long time partners will pick up more clues than strangers will. Two computers should have an even bigger advantage there.
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Old 7th August 2022, 02:56 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
The human players do communicate. Information about their hands is exchanged by their bids and the cards they play. Long time partners will pick up more clues than strangers will. Two computers should have an even bigger advantage there.
You only get one bid, so there's next to no information to be given away there. The comment on the way you play the cards is only partly valid, because good players will vary their play against other good players and I think that wouldn't be easy for the computer to deal with.
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Old 7th August 2022, 03:35 PM   #20
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That stone paper cutty game might be a candidate.
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Old 7th August 2022, 04:24 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by p0lka View Post
That stone paper cutty game might be a candidate.
I think they'd be crap at knucklebones, too.
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Old 7th August 2022, 05:05 PM   #22
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I'm wondering if computers could actually excel at poker. The game isn't just about statistical likelihood of a winning hand. It's also about getting a feel for the other player's level of risk avoidance, how that changes according to pot size, stack size, blind size, etc., and when the other player may decide to play against type, or may be bluffing a particular type in order to draw you into a losing play in a critical hand.

I'm pretty sure a purely statistical player would be very obvious, very predictable, and easily exploited. But maybe not. It would be a fun thing to test. And, contra TA, I think it should be tested, and rigorously, before claiming that poker is a game a computer necessarily always wins.

Meanwhile...

What about backgammon? Each roll of the dice may have several different options for how to play it. How does a computer know better, roll after roll, match after match, which options are best? Can it? Or will a skilled human player always be able to keep up?
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Old 7th August 2022, 05:49 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Pretty sure I do, while I'm certain you don't know how to play spades.

nope, also wrong, because statistics are irrelevant. No matter how smart you make the computer, it can't know what's in the other 3 hands.
There's no way anyone familiar with how a neural network actually learns (biological or synthetic) could ever make comments as wrongheaded as these.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:18 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I'm wondering if computers could actually excel at poker. The game isn't just about statistical likelihood of a winning hand. It's also about getting a feel for the other player's level of risk avoidance, how that changes according to pot size, stack size, blind size, etc., and when the other player may decide to play against type, or may be bluffing a particular type in order to draw you into a losing play in a critical hand.

I'm pretty sure a purely statistical player would be very obvious, very predictable, and easily exploited. But maybe not. It would be a fun thing to test. And, contra TA, I think it should be tested, and rigorously, before claiming that poker is a game a computer necessarily always wins.
My uneducated guess would be that a good poker AI would be very hard to exploit, but it also wouldn't be great about exploiting human players. It can't really pick up on the non-game cues, but also AI learning is pretty slow in terms of how many iterations of the game it requires. So an AI probably wouldn't learn enough about a human player's weaknesses in sufficient time to exploit it, whereas a top level human poker player can probably learn another human's flaws really quickly.

There is one game, though, that computers will never beat humans in, because it's basically impossible to train them by giving one the rules and letting it play itself.

That game? Calvinball.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:21 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by trustbutverify View Post
There's no way anyone familiar with how a neural network actually learns (biological or synthetic) the game of Spades could ever make comments as wrongheaded as these.
FTFY

Knowing I was playing a computer, I would play in a way that is designed to confuse it.

Like I said, learn the game first before making ignorant comments. I know it's de rigeur around here to butt in without knowing what you're talking about, but it makes you look bloody stupid to anyone who's an expert at the game.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:24 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
It would be a fun thing to test.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/release...0711141343.htm

Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
What about backgammon? Each roll of the dice may have several different options for how to play it. How does a computer know better, roll after roll, match after match, which options are best? Can it? Or will a skilled human player always be able to keep up?
Backgammon is ruled by chance. Obviously, being a good player helps, but even a moron can win with a couple of timely double sixes.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:30 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Ziggurat View Post
Now, maybe Spades is the sort of game where brute force won't produce good results.
Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
It won't. It's the only game where having good cards can be a liability, because the other team can bid zero.
This just means you haven't thought through the definition of "good cards". Also it doesn't make sense as a response to why brute force won't work because it would at most simply double the amount of force required. And that would happen only if there no overlap between the two solution spaces.
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Old 7th August 2022, 07:31 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Backgammon is ruled by chance. Obviously, being a good player helps, but even a moron can win with a couple of timely double sixes.
Oh. Have you been forgetting to shuffle the cards?
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Old 7th August 2022, 08:36 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by RecoveringYuppy View Post
This just means you haven't thought through the definition of "good cards". Also it doesn't make sense as a response to why brute force won't work because it would at most simply double the amount of force required. And that would happen only if there no overlap between the two solution spaces.
Another one who doesn't understand the game.

A bad hand can beat a good hand, because of the way the scoring works.
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Old 7th August 2022, 08:45 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I'm wondering if computers could actually excel at poker. The game isn't just about statistical likelihood of a winning hand. It's also about getting a feel for the other player's level of risk avoidance, how that changes according to pot size, stack size, blind size, etc., and when the other player may decide to play against type, or may be bluffing a particular type in order to draw you into a losing play in a critical hand.

I'm pretty sure a purely statistical player would be very obvious, very predictable, and easily exploited. But maybe not. It would be a fun thing to test. And, contra TA, I think it should be tested, and rigorously, before claiming that poker is a game a computer necessarily always wins.
Not sure what you mean by rigorous testing, but it computers have been thrashing humans at Texas Hold Em for years.

I made a post about it.
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Old 7th August 2022, 09:00 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Another one who doesn't understand the game.

A bad hand can beat a good hand, because of the way the scoring works.
I know how the game works. You are using a wrong definition of what a good hand is. And this should not be hard to understand.
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Old 8th August 2022, 12:05 AM   #32
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I think my next procrastination project will be to create a spades bot. Then The Atheist will be invited to play against it.
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Old 8th August 2022, 01:19 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I'm wondering if computers could actually excel at poker. The game isn't just about statistical likelihood of a winning hand. It's also about getting a feel for the other player's level of risk avoidance, how that changes according to pot size, stack size, blind size, etc., and when the other player may decide to play against type, or may be bluffing a particular type in order to draw you into a losing play in a critical hand.

I'm pretty sure a purely statistical player would be very obvious, very predictable, and easily exploited. But maybe not. It would be a fun thing to test. And, contra TA, I think it should be tested, and rigorously, before claiming that poker is a game a computer necessarily always wins.

Meanwhile...

What about backgammon? Each roll of the dice may have several different options for how to play it. How does a computer know better, roll after roll, match after match, which options are best? Can it? Or will a skilled human player always be able to keep up?

Is it - or is that what we've told ourselves it is?

Using the Go example, AlphaZero has made the top Go experts in the world revaluate how they play and reconsider what were always considered "bad" moves, during its matches the experts have said "that's a bad move no human would make" - yet AlphaZero still won.

ETA: Went to double check my recall - yep Backgammon has been done, and indeed like Go it has made the backgammon experts revaluate how they play, changing standard moves that have been considered the best moves for generations.

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Old 8th August 2022, 01:31 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Is it - or is that what we've told ourselves it is?

Using the Go example, AlphaZero has made the top Go experts in the world revaluate how they play and reconsider what were always considered "bad" moves, during its matches the experts have said "that's a bad move no human would make" - yet AlphaZero still won.
Indeed. What Alpha Zero demonstrated is that AI has more up its sleeve than brute force. And I think that AI will ultimately (after I die thankfully) surpass every rational human endeavour. There wonít be a game or pastime that wonít fall to AI, even artistic works.
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Old 8th August 2022, 02:16 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by RecoveringYuppy View Post
I know how the game works.
What's your highest point rank?

Originally Posted by Hevneren View Post
I think my next procrastination project will be to create a spades bot. Then The Atheist will be invited to play against it.
Bloody good plan - I wish there were money in it so I could prove or disprove the point.
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Old 8th August 2022, 02:24 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
Pretty sure I do, while I'm certain you don't know how to play spades.



Nope, also wrong, because statistics are irrelevant. No matter how smart you make the computer, it can't know what's in the other 3 hands.

The computer knows its own hand and all the cards in the deck. From there it can predict millions of possible lines, look for patterns in the outcomes, and analyse which outcomes would be beneficial to which bid and how likely they are.

It sounds like you think that you can trick the computer. What are you doing to win the game that a computer couldn't do?
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Old 8th August 2022, 05:38 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by shemp View Post
No computer will ever beat Tic-Tac-Toe.

The-only-winning-move-is-not-to-play.
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Old 8th August 2022, 05:51 AM   #38
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The difficulty with these computer discovered moves is that a line that requires near perfect play may be fine for AlphaZero, but be unsuitable for humans. It's like how lots of speed running techniques are great for TAS, but are too precise for humans.
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Old 8th August 2022, 05:54 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Armitage72 View Post
The-only-winning-move-is-not-to-play.
The computer in Wargames had access to the US nuclear arsenal. It could have won the Tic Tac Toe game if it had just thought a bit more out of the box.
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Old 8th August 2022, 06:47 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
Indeed. What Alpha Zero demonstrated is that AI has more up its sleeve than brute force. And I think that AI will ultimately (after I die thankfully) surpass every rational human endeavour.
I think maybe not.

And the reason I think maybe not is that there are a lot of human endeavors where at least half the challenge is learning while doing it. And AI is... not actually very good at learning. AI learns very slowly compared to humans, when measured by how many iterations it requires. We can mask that in cases like games with set rules, because we can run the learning beforehand, and the learning time is measured in iterations, not seconds, when the computer can play itself. But lots of real-world cases don't work that way. The computer can't learn by playing itself with fixed rules, because the rules aren't fixed, and you have to learn the rules each time as you go. So in those cases, if the AI is trying to learn WHILE doing the act in real-time, where you can't iterate the learning cycle artificially fast, I don't think it's going to surpass humans.
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