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Friday, November 28th, 2014

Time Event
8:16a
The Difference between Artificial Intelligence and Live Intelligence
I was talking with Anna and Brian about playing Hearts on my computer. I said that when you're trying to shoot the moon and you know there's one card out there that can stop you, you lead everything else you've got until there are only two cards left in your hand: the Queen of Spades and the card somebody's got the stopper for. Lead the second card. Unless forced to, the AI will always punt, refusing the lead that would then get them the Queen. Which means that they (and the other players) all get 26 points and you get zero, instead of them taking the Queen and you getting everything else.

"That doesn't work on us," Anna said. "We'll eat the Queen to stop you from running it." Indeed she would. And so would Brian or Zach or any other live player who sees what's coming. It's better to take a big hit than to take a disastrous hit. But that takes a willingness to take damage in pursuit of more important goals. Lesser players (and AI) will always dodge the sacrifice, because they can't imagine doing that. And so they lose.

There's a life lesson here somewhere.
8:30a
You gotta have Heart(s)
A further reflection from playing Hearts:

In the game of Hearts, the low score wins; that is, players are trying to avoid taking points. Each Heart is worth a point, and the Queen of Spades is worth 13 points. So points are bad, and somebody's going to take a whole lot of them every hand, and you don't want that person to be you.

In such a game, there are two basic strategies. Some people are playing to win, but most people are playing not to lose. Those playing to win understand that they're going to take points most of the time -- and a lot of points some of the time. It doesn't matter, so long as the other players take more points than you do. You make that happen by controlling the flow of the game, especially by determining when the Queen of Spades will be played. It's a high risk/high benefit strategy. The people playing not to lose will simply try to avoid taking points. They are risk averse, they obsess over taking points. This leads them into foolish play. By avoiding risk, they forfeit control of the game, and wind up taking more points than if they were willing to contend for control. They are following a low risk/high benefit strategy that doesn't work.

He who has ears and all that jazz.

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