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The Mechanical Turk: Artificial Artificial Intelligence

One of the earliest video games made for computers was chess. It’s not hard to see why chess was chosen: the rules are pretty simple, and the game is widely played. Artificial intelligence mastered chess early on, and programmers have long been able to set chess programs to play at different levels of difficulty. The first person to suggest that a computer might play chess was the celebrated computer scientist Alan Turing. Turing started talking about this in the 1940s, and in 1950, he wrote the first computer chess program. Turing himself was a weak chess player, but he started something, and a lot of others agreed. It was a common belief that by 1970, the world chess champion would probably be a computer. This never came to pass, of course, probably because human beings still got to decide who could enter chess tournaments in 1970 (and they haven’t given up that privilege yet), and humans never let computers in. With the arguable exception of IBM’s Watson’s appearance on Jeo…