Columns | December 14, 2009 1:06

Computer skeptic no more

Computer skeptic no moreWith the first decade drawing to a close, many sites look back on the past ten years and publish their lists of ‘greatest’ movies and books, most influential people, most important historical events and most significant technological developments. In chess, it’s not difficult to establish the most important change, which is of course the rise of the now-indispensible engine as a tool for chess analysis. What’s more interesting is the change in attitude that it has inspired.

During the last few days, with the eyes of the entire world on the Copenhagen Climate Summit while climate ‘skeptics’ demand equal time in the debate and attempt to confuse public opinion with misinformation and politically motivated arguments, I was often reminded of how I myself used to look at chess computers in the 90s. As aggravated as I am now about the lowly tactics of today's climate skeptics, I’m afraid back in the days I was a kind of computer-skeptic, too, in the sense that I found it very, very hard to believe chess engines could ever replace or imitate the best of human chess thinking. I simply couldn’t imagine a lifeless machine suggesting a subtle long-term positional exchange sacrifice.

Kramnik vs Deep FritzI also couldn’t believe a computer could ever understand what, say, Hedgehog positions were all about and secretly, I believed the strongest human grandmasters would always be able to outplay computers when all tactics had been drained out of the position. I sincerely thought nothing of importance could ever be learned from looking at computer chess except maybe a feel for hidden tactics. Of course, I was hopelessly wrong. The only positive thing I can say about it is that I was not alone. Even after the match Kramnik-Deep Fritz in 2006, which ended in a crushing defeat for the 14th World Champion, many people opined that Kramnik had lost due to ‘lack of concentration’ and other psychological reasons. Tellingly, though, no human vs. computer matches at the highest level have been played since.

What’s interesting is not that humans have gradually lost the battle against computers, but that nowadays there are almost no sceptics left when it comes to the supremacy of chess engines as a source of knowledge. Even the most traditionally-minded chess players, who at some point in their career solemnly promised they would never, ever, use a computer in their analysis, have now accepted this paradigm shift. Every respectable chess author, whether writing for New in Chess or the local club magazine, now checks his analyses with Rybka or Fritz - and anyone who doesn’t will be ridiculed and scorned by both reviewers and readers.

Gone are the days when people looked down on Kasparov's win in the 10th game of his 1995 World Championship match against Anand, merely because he perpared the famous rook sacrifice on a1 with the help of Fritz 4. In fact, nowadays the added value of human chess analysis mainly consists of making use of computer analysis and then commenting upon it, making sensible selections and separating pure ‘brute force’ tactics from more positional lines in a humanly meaningful way. This is a totally different way of working for anyone involved in chess analysis and it has had a profound impact on chess culture.

First of all, as in many fields of expertise, the development has triggered a kind of ‘democratizing’ of chess analysis. As many have noted, nowadays any chess amateur with a chess engine and a strong CPU can refute the analysis of world class grandmasters. In fact, at some chess tournaments the only people in the playing hall who are not aware of the correct evaluation of a complicated position are the players themselves - for lack of earphones through which the commentators are briefing Rybka's latest variations! According to some, this in turn has led to a decrease in respect for chess authorities. Perhaps this is true, although I personally think this has more to do with the large anonymous nature of internet itself than with the quality of one’s chess analysis. You don’t see someone from the audience of the Corus tournament come up to Carlsen and accuse him of being a ‘wimp’ for refusing to accept Morozevich’s incorrect piece sac, do you?

KasparovHowever, I think it was Kasparov himself who has said that this ‘democratization’ of chess is actually a good thing: the more people are involved in high-quality analysis, the more knowledge will be gained and the closer we will get to the Ultimate Truth. So much for all the bitter regrets and nostalgia for the lost age of chess innocence! It seems hard to disagree with Kasparov, but I would make one provision: chess enthusiasts should definitely realize that playing chess behind a board, against a real opponent, is completely different from looking at your monitor with an engine running in the background. This sounds trivial, but I’ve often been annoyed by kibitzers complaining about the lack of quality in time-scrambles, as if these players are absolutely required to see as much as their engine in the same amount of time and are totally worthless when they don’t!

With hindsight, I must admit it was pretty foolish to be so skeptical. The evidence was always there. Chess, essentially, is not just a game of humans but a set of mathematical rules that obey basic laws of physics. Actually, I think it won’t be too long before even the best chess players in the world don’t truly understand computer analysis anymore. We can already see signs of that in some games and variations: the ‘human explanation’ will then be just a speculative guess; chess intuition will be in the dark, looking for clues that perhaps simply aren’t there. It will just be nonsense to our human frame of reference, a bit like quantum physics.

We may not like it, but that’s just the way reality works. Reality simply cannot be combined with wishful-thinking. Perhaps climate 'skeptics' should embrace this philosophy, too: the idea that we’re polluting the planet and can’t just do whatever we want anymore may not be a comforting thought, and it may not lead to a pleasant course of action, but we’ll just have to learn to deal with it. Who knows, we may even start to like it.

Yesterday, I read an excellent definition of a skeptic: "a person who strongly prefers to accept as fact only that for which there is verifiable and reasoned evidence, and who is prepared to put aside that fact should the evidence suggest this be done." Of course, it's this last condition that's so hard to grasp for climate - and anti-evolution - skeptics, which is why some people prefer to call them 'denialists' (or 'lobbyists') instead. Being a skeptic is only useful if the evidence is on your side. If it isn’t - if chess computers win all the games, help us improve analysis and can even teach us interesting things about the game we didn't know - it’s time to change your mind and stop preaching to the choir.

Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll

Chess.com

Comments

ron's picture

"I sincerely thought nothing of importance could ever be learned from looking at computer chess except maybe a feel for hidden tactics. Of course, I was hopelessly wrong".
???????????????????????????????????????????????????????
What can humans learn from computers? Absolutely nothing. The point is that humans play a human game: there is what we call "pattern recognition", there is "theory", there is "psychology".
Computers do not play. They mindlessly crunch moves following the rules of chess, They prove that there are really no patterns, that theory is an approximation of the truth only.
Fortunately, humans still have fun and love the beauty of the game, even when these are also incomplete human concepts.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Hello Arne – and greetings from Denmark, where we yesterday in Copenhagen were about 150.000 people demonstrating for a fair and sustainable solution to the climate problems of our planet.
Yes, these “climate sceptics” (or even “climate problems deniers”) are fore sure a nuisance, to say the least. But, as I am sure you are aware of, they are heavily sponsored by, mainly, the oil industry. You, as a former “computer sceptic”, I suppose never had huge economical and political interests in keeping things as they were :). So I think your analogy is a bit too far stretch.
Ok, on the subject: I claim that computers will never be able to “understand” chess, or, for that matter, conduct “subtle” sacrifices or maneuvres. In fact I claim that computers will never be able to play chess at all! Simply because they cannot “think”, an activity exclusive for living beings equipped with wetware, mainly humans. And computers cannot play beautiful moves, simply because they will never have any sense for aesthetics.
What computers can do is to SIMULATE human thinking, seemingly especially effective when it comes to mental activities as chess. Doing this simulation we know they can beat the strongest masters, but they will NEVER understand any aspect of the game.
Yes, the computers are great tools for humans, and has as such revolutionised a lot of fields of human activities, also chess. But I doubt that they in any particular way have “democratised” chess analysis, as Garry claims. On the contrary: Some of the good, old abilities of analysing OTB may have gone backwards, but that is hopefully only a phase of transition. There can never be a “supremacy of chess computers as a source of knowledge” – to gain “knowledge” you still have to do the work you self.
Always remember: A computer can maybe show you WHERE and WHAT you did wrong in a game, but never WHY you failed. And it can never show you HOW to overcome your faults.
And then we may come back to the climate problems: Clever scientists have, with computers as indispensible tools, showed us WHERE and WHAT is the problem. But they cannot show us WHY mankind got into this blind alley, and HOW we get out of it. We have to find out for our selves.

Sanne's picture

As always Arne Moll provides us with a well written, entertaining and interesting read.
Always looking forward to his next piece.

Hatsekidosie's picture

As much as I appreciate this article, I must point out one mistake,

Arne wrote: "Chess, essentially, is not just a game of humans but a set of mathematical rules that obey basic laws of physics."

There are no rules of physics in chess, unless you count gravity that keeps the pieces on the board and the board on the table and the players in their seats. Let alone that a "set of mathematical rules" could ever obey basic laws of physics (unless someone wrote them down and gravity works on the piece of paper etc.)

But his is just a detail. I am not skeptical in any way, I never am, I was born a believer. Chess rules.

Arne Moll's picture

@Hatsekidosie: perhaps I didn't express myself clearly, I just meant to say there is nothing 'immaterial' about chess (as in the common belief by many that the mind - or the soul - is something immaterial, or separate from the rest of the body or indeed physics.)

@Jens, ron: A first question for me would be how you define 'thinking'. Here I am reminded of my reply to Hatsekidosie. How is 'thinking' in a human brain different from thinking in a computer, precisely? It seems to me that this is the root of all confusion and discussion about minds and computers. Have you read the book 'The Mind's I' by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett? Or 'Gödel, Escher, Bach' by Hofstadter? These books deal with such problems in a fascinating way. (A first funny question is: what's the difference between 'you' and your brain?) Although I know these books are quite controversial, It seems to me, Jens, that it's too simplistic to say computers could NEVER 'think' in a way comparable to humans. This is simply an argument from ignorance, isn't it?

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Arne, the human brain is working in a totally different way from how a (digital) computer does. That´s it, and it is not too "simplistic" a statement, but a completely fundamental such.
Failing to grasp that is, to my mind, exactly "the root of all confusion and (in?) discussions about minds and computers."
And there is nothing "immaterial" in this world, neither our thoughts or our chesspieces. But the last ones cannot move by them self.
No, I have not been through Hoffstadters books. I have given it a try, but never managed. could be I missed something. Have you read Dreyfuss & Dreyfuss: "Mind over Machine"? I have.

J.A. Topfke's picture

You still believe in global warming? I suppose you still believe the Earth is flat, too.

ron's picture

Yes In read Hofstadter and a lot of other books, most prominently Roger Penrose's classics on the topic. He proves that algorithm-based computers can never "think".
Thinking, consciousness etc. are the greatest mysteries and linked to the other big issue of Free Will. Computers haven't...maybe they are sometimes blessed for being machines...

PolGer's picture

The only thing we can learn from computers is ... to believe! To believe in something that no one can figure out, or at least is able to prove that in a way that everybody is convinced.
To believe that there is allways a defence,
to believe that there is allways a mate in 73,
to believe that the position is exactly 2.48
and to believe that one certain day in the future there will come a better -and last- computer who show that all the other computers before have failed and chess is doomed because everything is 42.
;)

Creemer's picture

@J.A. Topfke: It's funny, isn't it. An article and a discussion that feature human thought also features a prime example of how human beings refuse to think for themselves and prefer to mindlessly repeat (like a computer) the patterns and 'information' that is fed to them. It makes me smile. It used to anger me, then it confused me, now it makes me smile.

buri's picture

As a mathematician, I must say that Mathematics doesn't obey Physics, it's the other way around ;)

buri's picture

Wait lol I think I've confused myself with what I just said haha I meant to say I disagree with "Mathematics obeys Physics" but that it should be "Physics obeys Mathematics"

Yeah I think that's definitely better :D

Bert de Bruut's picture

@Topfke: It doesn't matter what you or I believe, politics have to rely on what our scientist in general currently think, since everyone else are entirely unable to form themselves an educated opinion about matters concerning the climate.

test's picture

@Topfke: Kindly refute these points.
Take your time.

Alexander's picture

"Chess, essentially, is not just a game of humans but a set of mathematical rules that obey basic laws of physics. Actually, I think it won’t be too long before even the best chess players in the world don’t truly understand computer analysis anymore. We can already see signs of that in some games and variations: the ‘human explanation’ will then be just a speculative guess; chess intuition will be in the dark, looking for clues that perhaps simply aren’t there. It will just be nonsense to our human frame of reference, a bit like quantum physics."

Interesting prediction, which I nevertheless find too gloomy. I think humans will experience problems understanding only some endgames (like R&B v. 2N), where it is, due to the length of the variations, impossible to set up a meaningful plan. I think it was Tim Krabbe who proposed the following test: "superhuman" are all those endgames where it is impossible to determine, when given two random steps from its tablebase solution, which one is closer to mate. Those endgames are without any doubt above human abilities.

But another case is with odd-looking computer moves in the opening stage of the game, or in the middlegame. The point is that a human mind will, when following those variations, always discern the meaning of the move in a manageable succession of moves. Its effect will not come into force 50 plies later, like it does in some endgames. The reason for that is, in my opinion, the following: openings and middlegames are complex. They are complex not in the sense that they are hard to calculate, but that they, ex definitio, contain an abundance of pieces.

Why is that important? When there are still a bunch of pieces in the play, a human player - without paying any attention to it - divides the game into sequences or compartments of ussualy no more than 20 or 30 plies. Each sequence is a battle of its own, where each player seeks an execution of a well-defined plan, like getting out of a cramped position, winning the exchange, trading the passive piece, setting up a minority attack.

This is the reason why "superhuman" endgames like RB v. 2N are impossible to execute. The scarcity of pieces and lack of pawns prevents us from compartmenting the progression of the game into meaningful sequences. A human wonders at a tablebase move because he cannot see a plan behind it. But when a computer proposes even the seemingly most absurd move in the early and middle stage of the game, one can *always* find a short term plan behind it: winning exchange, freeing a pawn and so on. We will be able to interpret early and middlegame computer moves even if it will be using 32-men tablebase, because we won't consider its decision in the light of a final plan - mating opponent - but in terms of smaller and meaningful segments. In the hardest and longest endgames, a human player is left in dark precisely because he knows that he can consider the progression of the game only "sub species aeternitatis", only in view of the final mate.

So, my final point is this: human mind, as far as chess is concerned, does not operate only in patterns, but also in sequences. A sequence is nothing but a temporal equivalent of a (spatial) pattern: it enables us to divide the progression of a game into manageable units, as patterns enables us to to divide the position into manageable sub-structures. When we check a computer-proposed variation, we seek for such a sequence. The only case imaginable when we cannot find a meaningful succession is when in the variation an exchange or a pawn advancement does not occur in a reasonable amount of plies. But when those events do occur, one can always look back and say: *this* was what the variation was aiming at. That was the plan: to set this sequence in motion.

chessfan's picture

@buri

I once heard a physicist say that mathematics was never a problem for physicists, they could always devise the math to fit their model or concept of 'physical reality'. The problem is getting the best concept or model to represent the observable physics. Now the solution of chess being the reality, and brute-calculation/assessment the model, one might say the Mathematics of this calculation/assessment leads to an approximate solution. It is not right to say chess obeys Rybka's programming. Instead say that Rybka obeys it's maker's math and produces a more accurate convergence to a chess solution. It's also not right to say Physics obeys Mathematics, but that the model of physics obeys it's math.

Now, all the scientists need to do is produce a model that more accurately predicts global warming and it's affects than a propagandist distorts--and maybe get a new weatherman because the old one keeps misinforming us ;)

Great Gatsby's picture

@Alexander:

That's an excellent comment. Thanks.

By the way, it would be interesting to compare and contrast "human understanding of computer variations" in checkers. Since checkers has been solved (as of 2005), computers can play the game perfectly. Although checkers is of course a much simpler game, it may still give a reference point i.e if (when) chess is solved.

Bruce's picture

comparing chess computers with global warming is just ridiculous. Chess computers have proven that they beat humans every time in a match. Period. Global warming on the other hand? Anybody over the age of 40 should be skeptical? Why? Because in the early-mid 70's, scientists were telling us to spend money to combat GLOBAL COOLING..... Extrapolating, i figure in 20 years, (after trillions are mis-spent), the scientists will again warn of the dangers of global cooling.

Guillaume's picture

Scientists were not predicting a global cooling in the 1970s. It was a gross misrepresentation of uncertain scientific data by the American media. Blame the journalists, not the scientists.

Scientists understand the climate much better now than they did in the 1970s, and they do predict a global warning. It doesn't make much sense to belittle their predictions based on what journalists were writing in the 1970s.

Arne Moll's picture

Bruce, your argument, which by the way is answered here, is also one that is denying there can be progress in science. We can never be 100% sure about things we discover but we can rule out more and more and we gain knowledge all the time. Just because people were wrong in the 70s doesn't mean they are wrong now again. Besides, 'wrong' is not such an absolute as you think. I think it was Isaac Asimov who once said that people who thought the earth was flat, were wrong, and people who thought the earth was a sphere, were also wrong. But that doesn't mean it's equally wrong to think the earth is flat or a sphere!

Thomas's picture

Comments on global cooling vs. global warming - from someone with a little background in climate science, but not quite old enough (*1967) to remember the debate in the 1970s. So I cannot really say whether scientists got things wrong in the 1970s, or if they were misquoted by journalists.

Global cooling referred to the onset of the next Ice Age, part of NATURAL climate variability and unavoidable in the long term - unless menkind's greenhouse gas emissions counteract. However, there is no way to fight global cooling, i.e. fight against nature and the laws of physics (those long-term changes are due to changes in the traject of the earth around the sun).

Global warming is MAN-MADE - mankind is performing an unprecedented geophysical experiment, and these changes (in particular the rate at which they occur) are unprecedented.

There was also global or at least regional cooling during parts of the 20th century as a result of ups and downs of natural climate variability - superimposed on the one-way trend of human influence. Notably, the 1960s and 1970s were relatively cold in Europe; similarly there is a pause in global warming in the first decade of the 21st century. Hard to explain things without becoming rather lengthy and using jargon - in a nutshell, it's related to large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns (somewhere between weather and climate).
On even shorter timescales, day after day there is a natural cooling trend from 2:00PM till 2:00AM - obviously local, evening and night in one place is morning and afternoon somewhere else ... and obviously reversible.

BTW Arne, do you also have some professional background in this field or "only" a strong hobby interest? I wonder how many "average" people are aware of the websites you are linking to ... .

bruce's picture

i wonder how "certain" it is that global warming is man-made, to the extent that society is willing to pay trillions to "solve" or "control" it. Is society willing to sacrifice their personal wealth? How about the resulting job losses? And don't tell me there's no sacrifice. I'd like to ask people if they're willing to give up 1 car, or 1 flat-panel TV, or their job, to fix something that i'm not convinced can be fixed or even needs to be fixed.

By the way, the geology professor in the 1970's who told his class (and I was in the class) about global cooling was world-renowned at the time.

I really don't want to ruin this wonderful chess web site with politics, but, i think there should be a more honest assessment of global warming, before my country (USA) starts sacrificing part of its economy for it. From what i read, the decision is settled only in the minds of those who don't tolerate dissent.

Arne Moll's picture

Bruce, you're right this probably isn't the place to discuss these issues but let me just say that nothing is ever certain in science. But that doesn't mean we can't ever act on it! We can make good estimates and the ones about global heating are pretty accurate, or the best we've got in any case. There simply isn't an alternative!

The idea that we should only act when we absolutely know something for certain reminds me of the creationist's 'demand for more' argument: as soon as new evidence for evolution is found (such as an intermediate fossile), the creationists claim that, wait, now there is actually more to explain because there are now two gaps in the fossil record. This way, evolution can never be 'proven' (even though there is such an abundance of evidence that it's really absurd to claim the contrary.)
This is precisely what climate skepticists are doing: they demand, as you say, 'more honest assessment' all the time without specifying what would actually convince them of man-induced global warming. If only they did this... But in this way, they're in a very sneaky win-win situation: by pointing out potential problems with existing evidence (and there always is some, because that's just the way science works), even if it's slighter and slighter, they can maintain their position forever without ever having to produce positive evidence themselves. Until it's too late, of course.

On a final note, your argument about 'sacrificing the economy' is very strange: you seem to assume that taking care of the environment is costly rather than profitable. Well, perhaps in the short run you're right, but even if global warming didn't exist, it's clear that to be careful with your environment is a very profitable long-term solution. It's better to prevent a fire rather than trying to extinguish it when the flames are raging, no? Why would this be any different for the global environment?

Frank N Stein's picture

All I can say is, thank god those advocating that governments regulate the world economy in order to control climate change do not have any "politically motivated arguments", unlike those irrational skeptics. It's always good to be on the side of angels.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Sic! And all I can say is that I am sure its is damaging to the planet to burn off all these fosilebased fuels. And I am sure it is damaging to your chess abilities to let the computers do most of your analytical work.
And I am not completely sure why, but still I am quite sure...

Vazimolo's picture

How boring are those "climate fascists" advocating AGW, and pretending that "the scientists" have proven that the Earth is warming, when in fact during the last 3 years 30.000 scientists have signed petitions denouncing the lies contained in the IPCC reports, endorsed by a mere 2000 scientists...

Bruce's picture

I'm sorry to "pollute" this board with the political arguments (pun intended) so i'll get back to chess.

I love Kramnik's new style, or rather, going back to his old style, of fighting chess. I like his new opening style, he's really going for the aggressive game. And no more just "playing for the draw" as black. I dig it.

Getting back to computers in chess, I find the argument curious (and wrong) that computers are ruining chess. On the contrary, the fact that the computers can consistently beat the best humans in the world, demonstrates that there is still plenty of room for humans to improve! And i'm glad that i can purchase software for 50 bucks that can tell me all my mistakes!

One game i played back in the 70's, for decades, i was so proud of a move that i thought turned a lost rook and pawns endgame into a draw, cinching me a tie for 1st (in a small tournament). But Fritz found that in fact my move was 2nd best; there was a move to actually win a game! Someday i'll return to the tourney scene and see if Fritz has made me a better or worse player.

Arne Moll's picture

Vazimolo, again this isn't the place to discuss the complex issues of climate science, but one thing I really want to point out is that is that science isn't done by poll but by conducting research.

And here we are back to chess. How do we establish what's a good opening line or a good move? Surely not by asking chess enthusiasts on the internet their opinion! We watch the top players play actual games, we accurately analyse the games ourselves or preferrably with computers and publish the results in magazines chess informant, or even better, we wait until the players themselves publish their analysis. And then we wait until the next game is played. This way we increase our knowledge step by step. I think it's really not that hard to understand.

There are hundreds of websites on the internet debunking the silly petition and its supposed signatories, go have a look at Google (e.g. 'debunk climate petition') and have fun.

Graham's picture

Great to see chess players taking up the cause of good science and rational thinking! I am coming to this more from the climate change angle but used to be a keen chessplayer:
http://zone5.org/2009/12/14/checkmate-for-the-climate-change-deniers/

Vazimolo's picture

The greatest experts on climatology have signed petitions denouncing (not only in the US, but in Canada, and in Europe, too) the AGW and the lies contained in the IPCC reports. Those experts were banned from the Bali summit, and are now banned from the Copenhaguen summit : which proves the totalitation way the UN is acting (but that's not a surprise, since 60% of the members of the UN are dictatorships).

"There are hundreds of websites on the internet debunking the silly petition and its supposed signatories, go have a look at Google (e.g. ‘debunk climate petition’) and have fun."

And there are hundreds of websites pretending that gaz chambers never existed, and that the 6 millions Jews exterminated by the nazis just went for a walk in the woods in South Poland...

Arne Moll's picture

Yes, Vazimolo, that's preciesly why it's so important to look at the evidence rather than just blindly belief what people write. I assumed you would be able to do this yourself so I didn't mention any sites in particular, but after reading your post I think I will have to reconsider this point of view.

James's picture

Arne,
all i can say is that computers are man-made. So it is more like man beating man:-)
They do what the maker's algorithm says. You could make Rybka always start with d4 and it wins. But that is the maker's doing not the machine.

Thomas's picture

@Vazimolo: 30,000 scientists sounds impressive, but apparently only 9,029 have a Ph.D. - which corresponds to "entry level" as far as scientific research is concerned. The petition doesn't mention the number of professors, is it actually 0 (zero)??? Transferred to chess, it would correspond to a bunch of FMs and IMs signing, maybe a few GMs but noone rated higher than 2500!? And who are the "greatest experts on climatology", I am really curious and would be happy if you can provide 5 or 10 names!

By comparison, the 2000 scientists involved in the IPCC are all experts on (various subfields of) climatology - they were screened beforehand and quality is more meaningful than quantity ... .

Arne Moll's picture

That's an interesting point, James, but also one of semantics mostly. It reminds me a bit of the idea that all human pollution in the world is in fact completely 'natural' because humans are in the end creatures of nature.

Fact is that Rybka would probably still beat the best humans in the world even if it played 1.a4 or 1.h4, whether the maker programmed it or not.

Creemer's picture

OK, I'm not sorry at all about infusing this site with a discussion that is not about chess. If I was, I wouldn't do it.

Now, someone (don't feel like scrolling) asked Topfke to refute some points. I took a look. I don't need to refute them (even if I was Topfke ;)) since I either agree with the points or consider them irrelevant. Understand this: I believe Earth is warming up. I believe this is a result of factors OUTSIDE our climate. We humans do not have responsibility for it. We have responsibility for polluting the environment though, that's something else.

And scientists who do not agree with, or do not have a financial interest in the whole CO2-farce are indeed gagged, threatened, ridiculed etc. This is not speculation, but fact. You must be blind to not see it, and we will pay the price.

So, do not sign this petition that is polluting your mailbox the coming days. Do not.

Frank Sträter's picture

Neither computers nor humans truly understand chess. It's just more likely computers will before humans do.

Arne Moll's picture

For those interested, here's a recent article about professional skeptic James Randi's critical view on global warming, and Randi's subsequent statement that he was too ignorant on the subject. The petition mentioned in some of the comments to this thread is also demolished along the way.

Jo's picture

@Bruce

"comparing chess computers with global warming is just ridiculous. Chess computers have proven that they beat humans every time in a match. Period. Global warming on the other hand? Anybody over the age of 40 should be skeptical? Why? Because in the early-mid 70’s, scientists were telling us to spend money to combat GLOBAL COOLING….."
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Not only should you be skeptical - you should look at the solutions being put forward.

There is no doubt in my experience that coal, gasoline and many other chemicals are a blight on the earth. If your over 40 and you didn't grow up in Kansas. you might remember how dismal and polluted most cities in the western world were. Not that they are perfect now - but the difference is night and day...in fact thay actually have night and day.

Course you may live in smog zone - so can't see beyond the end of your nose - probably coz your wallets in the way or maybe your in bad health and just don't give a damn.

I return this crap in the spirit it was given

Castro's picture

"With the first decade drawing to a close"

It will happen only when the 10th year END, thus a year from now.
Stupid "millenium" question!
- It doesn't matter how many digits change;!
- It doesn't matter who, why and how started some time counting!
- It doesn't matter how acurate have the counting been, regarding of the event we comemorate as origin!
- It doesn't matter that confused people have even imagine such a monster as a "zero year"! (Hilarious! Thing for a while: Zero is an instant, not a period. Only some modern artificial time counting system could use zero as a first unit.)
- It doesn't matter how many people had harder party from 1999 into 2000, thinking they were already entering the new milenium! They're literally "ahead of their time"! :-)

I had 10 years when I completed 10 years. The same with the calendar.
If we accept we're on year x, then it's at the END of the x year that the counting goes x years.
The first decade of the 21th century of our dating system is completed at 24:00 on December 31, 2010!

Arne Moll's picture

Your decade consists of 11 years, Castro? Mine has 10. Your definition of a decade sounds awefully pedantic if you ask me. By the way, it is not supported by Wikipedia or Reddit.

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