— Nigel Painting (@nigelchpainting) February 1, 2017
via Twitter https://twitter.com/nigelchpainting
February 01, 2017 at 01:09PM
This is one of those news stories that at first sight appears to be about expending valuable academic resources on trivial matters. However, as with other areas of research there will be spin-off benefits in fields that perhaps have more benefits to society.
As the article points out Prof Sandholm said that the algorithm could be transferred to a range of other uses. This is not just about poker,” he said. “The algorithms can take information and output a strategy in a range of scenarios, including negotiations, finance, medical treatment and cybersecurity. Now we have proven the ability of AI to do strategy and reasoning, there are many potential applications in future.”
This playful approach to research can yield unexpected dividends and, as such, it would appear that the approach can be as important as the outcome. The early research into Graphene at The University of Manchester, by Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov is a story of playful experimentation. “Andre and Kostya frequently held ‘Friday night experiments’ – sessions where they would try out experimental science not necessarily linked to their day jobs.” The first time Graphene was isolated, their basic technique consisted of removing “some flakes from a lump of bulk graphite with sticky tape”. Today “Graphene is a disruptive technology; one that could open up new markets and even replace existing technologies or materials. It is when graphene is used both as an improvement to an existing material and in a transformational capacity that its true potential could be realised.”
Play and playfulness takes me back to the IDGBL (games) course and the work of Johan Huizinga (1995) and Caillois (2001). In Huizinga’s classic work, ‘Homo Ludens: Man the player‘ he defines play as a key building block of human civilisation’. He shows how play can be seen in the arts, poetry, philosophy and even in the law and in war. Caillois’ typography builds on these theories and categorises various forms of play, which have proved useful in many contexts, including in education.
I can’t remember whether it was in IDGBL that we looked at Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work (1990), but he defined an optimal state of being in adult humans (flow), that also seems to have a lot in common with play and playfulness. Flow in this context is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”.
So the lesson is, perhaps, that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of play and playfulness or dismiss them as trivial or frivolous activities.
Huizinga, J. (1995). Homo ludens: A study of play elements in culture. Boston: Beacon press
Caillois, R. (2001). Man, play and games. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. (Preptint edition; original work published 1958)
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: the psychology of optimal experience