Possible Impossibilities

Looking back, remembering some “sayings,” and wondering the arrival of conclusions.

Every step of the way, to observe, listen, and ponder, but never fully concluding without due diligence. Taking to time to reflect.

                There are a few “sayings,” from my younger years, that to some degree I accepted as standard beliefs, but remember pondering.  For instance, that no two snowflakes are alike, even though no one has ever seen every snowflake that has or will fall from the skies.  Or that winning in chess against a well-programmed computer would be an impossibility. 

                There was a scene on Star Trek, the Next Generation, where the android Data lost to one of another species.  Everybody thought that was an impossibility.  Which of course, brought back the question regarding computers. 

                Chess is a wonderful game.  Some time back, due to how long chess games can last, I started playing against opponents within a computer program (Caisa), and found we could determine time for moves.  In this way, we limited the length of games.  As such, we could play, without giving up hours upon hours, and learn to determine moves within a much shorter constraint of time.  Often, I chose between 2 minutes and 30 seconds per move, depending upon how much time I had to play.  And I found the strategy changing in this format.  **Perhaps, one day, I might return to playing long games, perhaps even one of those by mail.

                Some time back, around the same time, I also started playing checkers on computer.  It was during that last few years of teaching, when time availed after the school day was over, usually on a Friday before going home for the weekend.  As I remember checkers being a very simple game, I was surprised how good some players were, a couple in fact I could not beat for a time (I imagine, they played chess as well.).  That was an education.  With time, I realized how much more complex the game truly is.  And that’s with pieces all the same.

                Enter Chess.  The pawns are all the same.  However, we also have castles, knights, bishops, the King, and the Queen.  I would like to attempt explaining that which is complex with all the same pieces (checkers) makes far more complex with very different pieces, and different moves (chess.).

                I’ll never be able to do the math, but I would suggest the complexities of options, regarding Chess, is not calculable by human standards.  And I would also suggest that no computer can predict every possible move, for human beings create the programs.  Yes, we can make them far more sophisticated, but can never be fully complete in predictions. 

                When I played frequently (I haven’t played chess for more than a couple games in a year in a couple of decades.), I believe the highest rating I ever reached was 1,500 (For a short time, 1,600) or so, but normally ranked around 1,400 or thereabouts.  However, on occasion, I was able to win against players ranking around 2,000.  And I have lost to players ranking lower than myself.  Because, in every game, every move changes the dynamics.  As such, with the right moves, every game is up for grabs.  That’s how sometimes a novice will win against a superior opponent.  That’s also how, sometimes, a player will beat a computer program, even one geared at the top.  What matters in making the best moves in given situations. And some players study situations.

                This next part of the article might sound a bit “odd.”  I’ll keep part of it short.  Human beings are not that smart.  I know that of myself.   I do very much appreciate the understanding that shines from time to time, and I appreciate how wonderful life is and can be.  However, it always seems that the moment anyone, including myself, thinks they know something more than others, they’ve actually fallen back down.  I think that’s where the saying came from:  pride goes before the fall.  However, we can appreciate the wonders and discoveries.

                Now for the next part.  The comparison between chess and checkers is a small one, but makes the point.  Those, in a sense, are simple games.  Compared to the complexities of life, all the factors, all the possibilities, if we’re talking pure statistics, the differences are tremendous.  With all the people in the world, all the nuances, we can never fully predict tomorrow.  As such, we ought never say we know what the future will be.  I certainly don’t.  Of course, we can say the trends tend towards such and such, but then, we discuss, share, and hope for tomorrow:  today.  For everything that happens happens in real time. And what we do today, each day, impacts tomorrow.



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