Ilya's Reviews > Blondie24: Playing at the Edge of AI

Blondie24 by David B. Fogel
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Jan 04, 12

bookshelves: computer-science

David Fogel is a son of Lawrence Fogel, a pioneer of evolutionary computation. In 1993 father and son founded a company that applies evolutionary methods to various problems such as detecting cancer in mammograms, a "dual-use" project funded by the US DoD. In the late 1990s Fogel and a coworker decided to try to evolve a program that plays a strategy game: they deemed chess too complicated, but checkers just right. There was a famous checkers-playing program in the late 1950s which played against itself to decide on the weight of various features, but the features themselves were hard-coded (i.e. a checkerboard is worth 11 points more if there is a particular combination of checkers in the last two rows; the number 11 is adjustable but not the combination). Fogel decided that this is not really artificial intelligence, since the features come from human experts, so he and the coworker evolved a neural network that chose its own features. They gradually improved the evaluation procedure and made the neural network ever more sophisticated, all the while avoiding hard-coding the features. Several times did they run the evolution process for a few hundred generations, and each time made the evolved neural network play against presumably human opponents on the MSN gaming site. Their latest and greatest network played under the nickname Blondie24, and earned an expert-level rating.

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