Computers And Strategic Games

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Computers and Strategic Games

We all know that computers can help a jumbo jet land safely in the worst of weather, aid astronauts in complex maneuvers in space, guide missiles accurately over vast stretches of land, and assist doctors and physicians in creating images of the interior of the human body. We are lucky and pleased that computers can perform these functions for us. But in doing them, computers show no intelligence, but merely carry out lengthy complex calculations while serving as our obedient helpers. Yet the question of whether computers can think, whether they are able to show any true intelligence has been a controversial one from the day humans first realized the full potential of computers. Exactly what intelligence is, how it comes about, and how we test for it have become issues central to computer science and, more specifically, to artificial intelligence. In searching for a domain in which to study these issues, many scientists have selected the field of strategic games. Strategic games require what is generally understood to a high level of intelligence, and through these games, researchers hope to measure the full potential of computers as thinking machines (Levy & Newborn 1).

From the beginning, some have argued that computers would never be good at strategic games until humans themselves understood how they themselves played and then modeled computers to play the same way. Most computer scientists felt that humans carried out highly selective searches, and programmers initially set out to have their programs do the same. It was believed that special-purpose computer languages in which gaming concepts could be easily expressed were necessary. There were some that argued that although human intuition could not be programmed, it was required for top-level play. Computers have improved gradually over the years from the point of barely making legal moves to the current state of being world-class players. On the surface, they do not seem to imitate the human thought process, but upon closer examination, one begins to sense that they do. How exactly do computers play strategic games? The best way of answering this question is to look at how computers play the game of chess, as this game in order to be mastered requires what we consider to be the highest level of intelligence. Among all the strategic games, the game of chess has been studied the most by AI researchers with the objective of making chess-playing machines that can defeat the best human players.

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