Cyborgian Mates

My friend Matt Dickerson recently told me of the existence of centaur chess, alternatively called cyborg chess or, harder to google, advanced chess. Advanced chess is Kasparov’s pretty lame name, so I’m going to called it centaur chess. It’s a simple concept. Instead of trying to beat Deep Blue, Kasparov decided to join him.

I read a lot of essays of the general form of When We Can Engineer Our Babies, Will We Be Human Post Feminist Cyborg Identity Constructs, or Post Human Post Feminist Cyborg Identity Constructs? and they generally don’t do much for me. I don’t understand why academics and thinkers feel like they need sci-fi technologies to start talking about what augmentation is going to do to us, given how much is floating around not only in our present, but our past. Beyond that, I find what we’ve already done to be difficult enough to understand, implication-wise, that we can chew on that a good long while without having to speculate about how as yet undeveloped technologies might change society.

Seriously, keeping up with now could be a full industry on its own.

Centaur chess is yet another example of the interestingness of now. The computer and human play as a team, building on each other’s strengths in a kind of UI enabled decision making synthesis. The consensus seems to be the computer is good at tactics, and the human is good at strategy.

There were briefly tournaments, but these floundered. I suspect this is because while the point for Kasparov was to become the perfect chess player, it’s not clear that watching perfect chess players would be any more fun that watching a very well maintained threshing machine. We enjoy sports because they are imperfect.

What makes more sense is that several sources (including my friend Matt) have suggested that centaur chess has quietly taken over correspondence and online chess. Being the more perfect player is a lot more fun than watching. Scores of people out there are learning how to augment- to surrender the weaker parts of their ability to their computers and reintegrate the ability of the computer into a new identity without surrendering their egos. We do this all the time with certain mental capacities, but not the very special mental areas we think of as things like smartness or wisdom. That’s changing now. It bodes ill for other games like poker, and well for expanded human capacity.