humans can’t play chess

I got trolled! I was baited with a claim that “computers don’t play chess”—what they’re doing is something else that doesn’t count.

Humans don’t play chess! Evolution has designed clever learning algorithms, and by study and practice against each other these algorithms can sometimes attain surprisingly good results, but this reflects nothing on human achievement.

Can an object “play” if it learns on its own? I fear I wrote a learning chess program as part of my PhD research. On a workstation, it eventually learned to “play” a bit better than the average human tournament player. I was under the mistaken impression that I was making an advance in computer science. I dropped out of grad school barely in time!

Surely you don’t maintain that two objects are intrinsically different in causative power (the ability to “play”) solely because one was designed and one just happened? How... Ptolemaic.

Original version, September 1994.
Updated and added here January 2012.