Is poker the face of future AI?

In the past, chess was the target of AI (artificial intelligence) programmers.  I wrote a 4k chess player in assembly language on my old Intel 8080 computer — a Processor Technology Sol-20, to be exact.  To be even more exact, I wrote it in machine language, manipulating everything in hex code because I hadn’t yet purchased an assembler or learned how to use one.  It did played pretty well for a 1970’s microcomputer program — competing to a tie with a commercial product — but I never entered it in competition.

But chess is a game of perfect information, where the state of the game is known by all players — not to mention spectators.  I wonder if it is harder to program an AI for a game like Stratego, where the value of pieces is not known until an attack occurs?  Poker may be even more difficult, because not only are there missing pieces of information regarding other player’s cards, but their style and mode of play — including such things as bluffing and facial expression — is so integral to the game.

This may make poker an interesting game from the standpoint of creating robots that better understand humans.  Yet, there doesn’t seem to be as much press these days about poker playing software (poker bots) as there used to be about chess playing software.  Could this be because poker is usually associated with gambling?  Could it be that an AI algorithms that understand how to play poker well are worth more — and thus less sharable — than chess algorithms?  Or has AI press in general been dominated by science fiction themes of workers losing jobs?

I was just wondering, because it occurred to me that from a video games and AI developer perspective, it seems that poker bots are a very interesting challenge.  It’s not that there isn’t a lot happening in the field — such as this computer poker bot competition — it’s just that I don’t see a lot of press on the subject.  Even the Wikipedia “Computer Poker Players” listing is quite a bit shorter than the “Computer Chess” listing.

IBM’s Watson got plenty of press regarding playing Jeopardy.  Does this mean that the press thinks poker is not as interesting to the future of AI?  I don’t know.

Introverts on Mars

The Atlantic recently published an article entitled, “Extroverts Don’t Belong on Mars.”  So introverts do?  If so, then some software engineers might fit the bill.  As the article points out, programmers might be “really sick of the open-plan offices here on Earth.”  I can just picture it now, a bunch of engineers fighting over who gets the only or best office on Mars.

I never programmed in an open-plan office, nor would I want to.  Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.  At Mattel Electronics around 1979-1980 we had a large building with a large open space for game developers, but we did our best to surround our desks with large file cabinets, plants, and anything else that might give us a bit of privacy.  After all, we also needed a little protection from remote control cars careening around the office.

I’ve always had a fascination with the planet Mars and its moons, maybe partially because I like the remoteness of the place.  Though I doubt I’ll be going there in my lifetime, I thoroughly enjoy writing science fiction stories like my award nominated “A Comic on Phobos”. 

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