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As human beings, we know that there are different aspects of intelligence. Often, innovation and creativity are considered to be higher levels of intelligence, whereas the ability to calculate is considered to be a lower level of intelligence. Mere calculational ability alone does not imply intelligence. For example, even a top scientist may not be able to compute the square of an 8 digit number, but a computer would be able to do it in a fraction of a second. However, a computer cannot do many of the things which humans are capable of, like invent a new device, or discover new science. It is a credit to the human intelligence that he is able to invent a device - the computer - to do things he would not be able to do ordinarily, just as other devices such as cars, aircraft, etc. have been invented.

Computers don't use real intelligence for playing chess, they just calculate millions of moves until they find an advantageous combination. Does this prove that chess is just about calculational ability and does not really involve any real intelligence?

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    The ability to calculate isn't intelligence? – Rauan Sagit Mar 4 '14 at 20:57
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    I think that the definition of "intelligence" is a topic of its own. For example, I think that being able to recognize a human face is intelligence. Yet you or others might think otherwise. It is a big topic and can quickly become subjective. Cheers. – Rauan Sagit Mar 5 '14 at 11:52
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Firstly, I think it is fallacious to consider chess a measure of intelligence (even though that is the general view). Chess ability, like almost any other skill-based activity, is a function of hard work and dedication far above raw talent. Wikipedia has an entry on this topic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess#Chess_and_intelligence) - researchers have found that there actually exists a somewhat inverse relationship between chess ability and intelligence amongst novice players - the reasoning being that smarter chess players do not work as hard on their skill as their less-gifted contemporaries - and in the long run, hard work pays off.

Secondly, you have to consider that computers and humans play chess very differently. Where a computer engages in millions of raw calculations, humans rely more on experience and pattern recognition to evaluate positions. The fact that computers can beat humans are essentially meaningless, as we are not comparing a like-for-like ability.

To say that chess computers have diminished the human skill of chess is, in my opinion, equivalent to saying that auto-mobiles have somehow diminished the skill and ability of marathon runners.

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My view is the following

When a computer program can do something that a human can, it is the success of the people who built it, not a flaw in human abilities.

To automate a manual or semi-automatic process happens all the time. Fortunately, chess isn't an industrial process or part of a product line. It is a battle of minds that millions of people enjoy. The engines help to excavate and dig deeper in positions. Yet, chess is still chess, especially for those who don't use engines (I image this goes for the majority of the human population).

The general reaction is still the same

Wow, you play chess? You must be really smart!

As far as I can see, chess still holds a strong status of being a clever activity, and will do so for many years to come.

  • the question is whether it is really a battle of 'intelligence' or a battle of calculational ability. – guru Mar 4 '14 at 21:37
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    @guru well, the ability to calculate, isn't that intelligence in itself? – Rauan Sagit Mar 4 '14 at 21:40
  • not necessarily, calculation is a routine task - you can give someone instructions on how to do it. intelligence involves ability to innovate, plan, strategize, come up with ideas. – guru Mar 5 '14 at 8:47
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    @guru In that case, we can agree to disagree :) – Rauan Sagit Mar 5 '14 at 9:06
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    If two people have the same knowledge, the more intelligent of the two will calculate faster. – Wes Mar 6 '14 at 18:46

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