Art vs. Machine, Soul vs. Calculation

Art vs. Machine, Soul vs. Calculation


This is a difficult post to write, partly because the impulse to write it is intuitive; it comes from a deeper part of my being. And as such I have no idea of what the scope will be; in what direction it will take me and in what port this ship might set anchor. 

Chess is a beautiful game, and I love it. It has provided many moments of joy and friendship. It played, however, a limited role in my life, since I felt that it could not reach the heights that music and spirituality held so well. The love for chess is till there, but it is now more of a side hobby, a relaxation, a release from the ordinary into a world of warfare and geometry, suspense (will the attack succeed, or will the defense hold?).

What worries me is the loss of humanity (in general) in favor of cold calculation. And not just in chess, but in life. 

And here is the point on which it all hinges: Art vs. Machine, Soul vs. Calculation. 

There is a spiritual aspect of human beings that machines cannot have. Why? because machines do not have a soul; a conscience. A computer is programmed to do this or that, and robots can even be programmed to "say" (with a recorded voice, mostly, or sampled vowels and consonants, because robots do not even have vocal chords!) things like "Hi, how are you?" or "I love you" or "That makes me so happy", and it can all seem true, but it is not, because robots and computers do not have a soul that can experience joy, and sorrow, not to talk of delight, or peace, or compassion, or love.

You can program a robot to play, let us say, Mozart, or Jimmy Hendricks, or Beethoven, but the machine is just following instructions; it cannot bring forward the beauty of a soulful interpretation, because it does not have that reality in it. It can fake it, yes. But it is not real; not sincere. It is an algorithm, or a code or program.

I was admiring a recent post by introuble2 about Rossolimo, ( )

and messaging a friend in this site about how the games of the old Masters ( who were really Grandmasters before the title was official) had a certain flavor, a flavor that I did not feel in the games of many modern, "elite" GMs.

This is very subjective; it is a perception and not a scientific theory. But for me, many modern games by the "Super-GMs" feel more like an exercise in memory, a 30-deep "prep" that was concocted with the help of an "engine" (which is not even an engine, by the way), while the games of the old Masters like Chigorin and Tartakower, Nimzowitsch and Bronstein, Tal and Gufeld and Nezhmetdinov have a different vibration to me.

Especially in the books of the great Masters who were also great Teachers, they way they spoke, the way they expressed themselves, was inherently, to me, more poetic and humanistic than what we see nowadays.

My mother's mother wrote and recited poetry. Both my father and mother loved to sing. My father would play the guitar and sing in harmony with my mother. My father wanted to study Humanities, but he had to give that up; he went and fought in WWII and Korea. But he was always reading the Iliad and the Odyssey. He loved God and loved people and had a great sense of humor.

My uncles and aunts (mostly from my mother's side) were simple people; people from the countryside. They were "ignorant", by modern-day standards, but they were humble, and soft, and gentle. They knew how to love! I never saw any of my aunts or uncles be rude to the children. We would go to the countryside on the weekends. They would play dominoes and drink and listen to music, while we kids roamed around, exploring the surroundings to our heart's content!

They did not play chess, did not have a high "rating", but they have what I value most: goodness of heart. They had soulfulness, and compassion, and humility.

Sometimes, in this site, I am shocked at how people treat each other. The other day, a parent was insulted and even called a bad parent because he/she did not want their 7 year-old son to learn profanities. For me, that parent should be applauded! Yet some "anonymous" attacker questioned their capacity as a parent, just because they did not agree with that judgement-call by the parent. Another person's intellectual capacities were questioned because he/she did not have a high "rating". I could give other examples, but why wallow in it? We all know how terrible this "anti-social" media can be.

Now here is one of my main points, and then I will bring it to a close, because I could write 20 pages on this:

The best things in life cannot be measured in numbers.

Yes, they cannot. Love, real love, cannot be measured. Compassion cannot be measured. The joy a parent feels when his child or grandchild smiles at him/her cannot be measured. My mother's love for me cannot be measured. These are spiritual things, not physical; they belong to the realm of your heart and soul.

Chess is a great game, no doubt. But treating others with love and respect is more important than winning or losing an argument, and more important than perceiving yourself as "smart" or "smarter" because you have a higher rating.

Carlsen was asked if he plays against computers. He said no, he does not, because it is like playing against an idiot who always beats you. The computer has a high "rating", but it has no intelligence, it is just calculating better.

Human beings play chess; computers just calculate. 

A chess player, by definition, is human. A computer is not a player; it is just a glorified calculator.

We have higher emotions and lower emotions. The higher emotions give value and dignity and beauty to what it is to be a human being. The lower emotions degrade us. 

All my best wishes to you all, and I hope that all "comments" here will be full of respect and love, and tolerance and compassion, oneness for each other.


P.S.- I do not expect that this post will get many "views", because the title is not attractive. Nowadays chess is focused on rating points, and bullet wins, and engines. The artistic element has definitely taken a back seat to the sporting element. This was predicted by Nezhmetdinov as far back as 1973, when the majority of viewers on this site were not yet born.

Here is a cut from the film "Mr. Holland's Opus" (by the way, a great humanistic movie)....