I've been relatively quiet on here, mostly because I've been working, which is a good thing. Several videos shoots (with a new camera, which I'll have to talk about!), some e-learning work, and as always, audiobook narration.
And one was released last week! I found this book to be fascinating. The title gives some of it away. It's about 7 games: checkers, chess, backgammon, poker, scrabble, Go and bridge.
But more than that, it's about AI and the advances computer learning has made by playing (or not being able to play) these games, and the effect these games have on us and why we play them.
For me the section on Go was particularly interesting, and my wife and I even looked up and watched the documentary on the program that ended up beating the world's best player. That program ushered in a new era in AI, and an iteration of it has made headlines last month as it contributed to a medical breakthrough.
Here's the publisher's overview.
Checkers, backgammon, chess, and Go. Poker, Scrabble, and bridge. These seven games, ancient and modern, fascinate millions of people worldwide. In Seven Games, Oliver Roeder charts their origins and historical importance, the arcana of their rules, and the ways their design makes them pleasurable.
Roeder introduces thrilling competitors, such as evangelical minister Marion Tinsley, who across 40 years lost only three games of checkers; Shusai, the Master, the last Go champion of imperial Japan; and an IBM engineer who created a backgammon program so capable at self-learning that NASA used it on the space shuttle. He delves into the history and lore of each game: backgammon boards in ancient Egypt, the Indian origins of chess, how certain shells from a particular beach in Japan make the finest white Go stones.
Roeder explores why games, seemingly trivial pastimes, speak so deeply to the human soul. He introduces an early philosopher of games, the aptly named Bernard Suits, and visits an Oxford cosmologist who has perfected a computer that can effectively play bridge, a game as complicated as human language itself. Throughout, Roeder tells the compelling story of how humans, pursuing scientific glory and competitive advantage, have invented AI programs better than any human player, and what that means for the games - and for us.
This stories this book tells were interesting and illuminating, and I really recommend it.