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Chess programs, Intellectual property, software improvement

It was a long time ago that getting a computer to play chess at a human level was just a far off goal. Things have changed since then. It looks like there has been steady improvement until something changed in about 2004. The paradigm shift at that time in chess engines got David Post at the Volokh Conspiracy’s notice – see Chess and the Open Source Revolution.

From Tyler Cowen, via James Grimmelmann: Soren Riis has a really fascinating essay on the rather astonishing recent developments in the world of computer chess [Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) focusing on the the lifetime ban, recently handed down by the organizers of the World Computer Chess Championships, issued against the author of “Rybka,” a highly successful computer chess program, on the grounds that it is using “plagiarized” code.
It’s a fascinating story in its own right, but particularly for what it says about innovation and information;

The story is one of an organization trying to defend itself in an old paradigm. There are some parallels that make me think of the WBCCI.

The story is one of an innovator who tickles the wrong crowd and gets lambasted – I can feel for him!

There’s a great deal more in the original essay about the nature of proprietary rights and the norms and customs in this particular community — well worth reading.

The story is one about the impact of innovation and how it can increase capabilities in previously unimaginable ways.

The story is about resistance to change and where the observation that you can tell pioneers by the arrows in their backs comes from.

The story is one about the growth and development of ideas and how creativity feeds off itself if given the chance.

The current consideration of legislation like SOPA and other attempts to control and protect ideas need stories like this to better learn where balance is needed and just how fallible decisions can be – much as the chess organization’s enabling a panel of experts to come up with a decision that had harsh and severe consequence that appears to have been considerably out of line with the nature and quality of the findings.

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