Friday, January 06, 2006

Feynman and Go

While perusing the book Feynman and Computation (which I highly recommend), I ran across Feynman's own "Computing Machines in the Future", a transcript of a talk he gave here in Japan in 1985. In the Q&A session at the end, he mentions that programming a computer to play Go is a lot harder than programming one to play chess.

If I knew that Feynman was aware of go (and perhaps even played), I had forgotten it. I'm racking my brain trying to remember if he mentioned it in the class I took from him in 1985-6 ("Potentialities and Limitations of Computing Machines", the basis for the book Feynman Lectures on Computation). My friend Ross (who took the Feynman class with me) introduced me to go in about 1983, but I didn't take it up seriously until 1992. I improved pretty rapidly until our first daughter was born, and progress stopped (still a good trade, in my opinion). I'm about shodan on the Japanese scale, which is about 2kyu U.S., I think...

This lecture is full of interesting little tidbits. Feynman says he found a method for turning a 2n-step irreversible program into a 3n-step reversible one, for example. Bennett's original formulation is at least 4n in that notation; I'm not sure if a better approach is known (and I should know, too).

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