Hans Niemann may have cheated, but what did Barry Bonds do?

Chess is often called the “fruit fly” of artificial intelligence, as it is the perfect subject to experiment with. It’s never been harder than at the US Chess Championship, where the appearance of the sly-eyed young internet cheat, Hans Niemann, is providing an interesting diagnostic investigation into the vague term “artificial performance enhancement” and what it actually means. What should it mean?

The National Tournament in St. Louis is a fascinating observational study: whether Niemann can play chess live and in person at a high level, while under surveillance with silicone scanners and a full-body stick of his back, to convince observers that he is fully engaged. How talented is the human brain? The 19-year-old has been accused by world champion Magnus Carlsen of using synthetic intelligence to play chess and lying about it, a claim partially verified by a disastrous report from Chess.com, which called Niemann ” Potential” for fraud. More than 100 online games. Neiman protested that he only did a few young indiscretions online, and “never, ever” for the money, and has offered to play naked if it helps prove his worth as a grandmaster. Through the fifth round in St. Louis, he has one win and three draws with a loss to Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, not what you’d expect from the next genius, but certainly not a guilty performance according to statistical models, either. .

Where to draw the line between acceptable effort, and “dirty,” immoral, or “unnatural” effort? Compared to a grandmaster who consults a software engine to win across the board, Barry Bond looks like a Victorian. For years, Bond and other athletes of the steroid era—including my longtime friend and co-author, Lance Armstrong—were considered benchmarks by the anti-doping bureaucracy for dishonest efforts, for the use of medicinal substances to build muscle mass, for physical fitness, and for the use of drugs to build muscle. To recover from or level the playing field. But the emergence of the Neiman dilemma, and the combination of cheating in chess with doping in baseball as Aaron Judge’s home run chase revived old concerns about Bonds’ single-season record, have clarified a fundamental problem. In all our anxiety about artificiality, we haven’t thought carefully enough about how to differentiate between the dubious world of rank cheating and performance enhancement.

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Chess site accused of ‘potential’ cheating in over 100 games by Hans Niemann

The juice a great baseball slugger takes isn’t trying to minimize his effort—he’s trying to maximize. Sports dopers are many things, but they are not lazy. They are opposite. They are highly powered. Whereas a chess player who relies on AI to solve a board problem is trying to minimize, not maximize. He is putting in the least amount of effort possible. This is completely a fluke. This type of fraud leads to atrophy, not aggravation.

The fear that athletes would become too synthetic, little more than a set of muscle-mechanics that exhibit few human traits, is a gross oversight. Athletes are much more than just well-built machines. Their formation systems are, of course, governed by chemistry and physics. Shake a hand in a certain way enough times and this will improve its functionality. But this is not the complete explanation for them. Something has been left out. There is an emptiness in our understanding. How athletes translate mere physicality into extraordinary performance and tremendous plasticity—how wonderfully improvised they are—is a beautiful mystery of temporal processing. The anti-doping movement is based entirely on the passion of the physical. But what makes someone great—whether at baseball or chess—is actually a complex intersection of work, intention, incentive, opportunity, sensory perception, insight, psychology, economics, and many other factors.

What really enhances performance? In fact, we don’t fully understand how a great athlete emerges “from a biological wet-ware of 100 billion neurons connected to 100 trillion synapses,” to borrow a description from Stanford professor Surya Ganguly in his essay , “The Intertwined Quest” to understand biological intelligence and create artificial intelligence. An athlete presents scientists with a profound “credit assignment problem,” writes Ganguly. Suppose a tennis player plays the ball the wrong way? “Which Of Your 100 Trillion Synapses Is To Blame?” Ganguly asked. Which is why no AI can (yet) imitate the truly spectacular neuronal-synaptic orchestra that Barry Bonds at the plate or Steph Curry in motion towards the basket. To do this, AI would have to “put together parts of the computer scientist, neurobiologist, psychologist and mathematical theorist in the same brain,” Ganguly writes.

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The anti-doping movement limits this mystery to a single reason, and it equally fails to achieve the objectives behind increasing sporting performance. A slew of studies show that athletes who are inclined to juice are driven not by the impulse to shortcut, but by “perfectionism.” The clinical world defines perfectionism as a multidimensional tendency toward “the pursuit of flawlessness.” It is therefore nonsense to talk to such athletes about the “ethics” of performance enhancement, when the more immorality for them is to spare any potential waste. Good luck discouraging perfectionists from experimenting with their bodies. You can also ask an astronaut not to go too far from the field.

When chess is hard and cheating is easy, the next step is complicated

After all, cheating in chess and so-called “doping” in sports both ask the same question: what is the purpose of the competition? Broadly speaking, games are for learning, aren’t they? The great champion Garry Kasparov once said that “chess is life in short.” By which he means the chess board’s final lesson in how to make tough decisions and accept the consequences with a certain amount of resignation. Filmmaker and famed chess enthusiast Stanley Kubrick loved the game because “it teaches you to think before you act and with the same objectivity when you’re in trouble.” A chess engine, consulting artificial intelligence, certainly precludes any thinking. Therefore it destroys knowledge.

But “enhancement in performance” isn’t nearly so obvious as to learn in resistance sports. Stop all forms of synthetic help, demand that athletes learn with a naked mind and a “pure” body, and you’re in straight trouble. float tank. Strobe Goggles. wearable sensor. Intravenous hydration. Electronic bike gear. laser range finder. Digital film to enhance pattern recognition. Why is pharmacology a more artificial advantage than other techniques employed by wealthy athletes who are trying to speed up their receptors and “optimize” that mysterious brain-body synaptic intersection?

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Performance enhancement in games isn’t a problem with single answers and single cheat modes, but a huge, multifaceted series. There are varying degrees of spuriousness and crimes, some of which may not be actual crimes, with varying implications in health, ethics, and science. What about an athlete who is simply trying to pain-manage, or speed recovery, or has put on lean muscle mass to better cope with extreme demands? Is it so morally wrong to commit self-harm? Does complete prohibition unnecessarily criminalize people who may have core competitive integrity?

The posing of these questions is not meant to rationalize rule breaking. Instead it is to suggest that the topic of performance enhancement could use a hard rethink. To classify this as simply “cheating” – no different from being told by a computer where a knight is to move – out of concern over the extent of superstition on a “natural” versus “unnatural” body, to learn also destroys.