The fascinating story of one Man and his Machine. This book tells the story of an ambitious computer scientist who sets out to write a program that can beat the World Checkers Champion. He succeeds, although it takes him six years to achieve his goal. On the technical side, the book describes how the checkers program works, and how much effort it took Schaeffer and his team to make it play well enough to beat the human Champion. On the human side, it tells the story of the amazing Dr. Tinsley, probably the best checkers player who ever lived, who had beaten all his opponents, who had become bored with the game, and who finds in the computer a fresh opponent that has no fear for him, that plays for the win, that is actually fun to play against.
The most intense passages of the book are the ones where Schaeffer, as the operator of his program, has to watch his creation make moves he doesn't trust, but cannot do anything about. The most intriguing aspect of the book is that the way in which Chinook calculates it! s best moves doesn't come close to how man does it. (Or how we think we do it.)
Chinook's is a fascinating story. The book is very well written, and reads like a thriller.
Very readable account of a major AI project It is rare for programmers and computer scientists to be good writers, and even rarer for them to write their own popular accounts of a major research project. Schaeffer has succeeded in doing that and his book both entertains and enlightens even those who have a casual interest in Artificial Intelligence.
In some cases the book reads like a thriller, as the reader gets caught up in Schaeffer's quest to beat the world's reigning checkers champion. I particularly enjoyed his explanations of some of the more technical parts of the project, debugging software, problems with parallel computing etc. All of this is written a very accessible level.
University of Alberta