David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen have been trying to get us to do it for decades: "JUMP!" Douglas Hofstadter would qualify that with "... out of the system!" Here's what that means.
Machine intelligent entities like James Blog exist within a certain system, conforming to a prescribed set of rules, and they really can't escape the confines and constraints of that programming. Within that limited domain, they do calculate wonderful results that can seem intelligent. In an early version, I found myself adding a logger so I could see why James Blog was not making some moves that seemed very good. Time and again, I would find that the good move now set up the conditions for a better opponent move later, which is exactly what the artificial intelligence is supposed to detect and avoid.
The algorithm does this so well that it is really hard to beat, especially on the maximum lookahead value I set, which was 6. Frankly, if you're new to this game, you have to work to beat even the initial lookahead level setting of 2, which means that James Blog only looks at its own moves and your countermoves to see what will produce the greatest net gain in seeds relative to you.
Because it is hard to beat this little game and see the special winners message, this opened up a delightful opportunity to talk about an important capacity of human intelligence that could be exemplified by determining the winners message without winning. I used a Zen-like characterization of a "winless win" as a nod to Hoftstadter's style in the book Gödel, Escher, Bach.
Put simply, we are not limited in our thinking to the confines of the system. We regularly "take it up a level" or "think outside the box". In this case, the system is a blog entry presented in a web page. So you can jump out of the system by using the View Source feature of your web browser to take a look at James Blog's code, where you will find the winners message: "I, for one, welcome my non-computer overlord." The message is an allusion to Ken Jennings' capitulation to IBM Watson, which was an awesome pop culture nod to The Simpsons-- awesome because both Jeopardy and the Watson AI are about sorting out exactly those kinds of allusions.
Frankly, I had a lot of fun with allusions, both in the blog entry and while holding the programmer challenge to achieve this winless win. For example, James mentions that he outfoxes his friend Wiley, alluding to the famous coyote, who is in the same animal family as a fox (Canidae), which is a tiny aural tweak from Canada, where I live. So, James can beat his wiley creator. Similarly, in tweets and status updates, I made numerous allusions to The Matrix movie, such as when I nearly used Morpheus's command to Neo: "Quit trying to hit me and hit me." The exception is that I changed the 'h' to a 'g', making 'git', which is what we use to get source code.
This kind of wordplay and allusion bears some similarity to "jumping out of the system". Hofstadter calls it contextual slipping, or my favorite word for it: counterfactualization. We take some piece of reality that we know about, and we ask "what if this were different?" We slip, or change, some piece of that reality to see if we end up with something new and useful. I find the notion of counterfactualization fascinating because it seems like a good operationalization of some other really important words: creativity, playfulness, humour, imagination.
Still, it might be a while between when we can efficiently and effectively operationalize contextual slipping and when we can generalize that to achieve machine intelligence that can jump out of any system in the way that I asked programmers to do with James Blog. At some point, I realized that there is a beautiful geometric analogy that helps explain why. In the book Flatland, the Sphere is able to escape the plane via the use of a third geometric dimension that is physically orthogonal to the two that comprise the plane. In this way, Sphere is able to see Square's inner workings. That is a great analogy with what we did by jumping out of the web page using View Source to see James Blog's inner workings. There was a whole different, higher level of understanding about what James was and how we could know more about it, and it is fitting to say we got that winners message by thinking outside the box.
Next blog will be a developer's tour of the particular machine intelligence algorithm built into James Blog. After that, will be a discussion of the relationships between machine intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics, so stay tuned!