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David B. Fogel


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Blondie24 tells the story of a computer that taught itself to play checkers far better than its creators ever could by using a program that emulated the basic principles of Darwinian evolution--random variation and natural selection-- to discover on its own how to excel at the game. Unlike Deep Blue, the celebrated chess machine that beat Garry Kasparov, the former world champion chess player, this evolutionary program didn't have access to strategies employed by human grand masters, or to databases of moves for the endgame moves, or to other human expertise about the game of chekers. With only the most rudimentary information programmed into its "brain," Blondie24 (the program's Internet username) created its own means of evaluating the complex, changing patterns of pieces that make up a checkers game by evolving artificial neural networks---mathematical models that loosely describe how a brain works. It's fitting that Blondie24 should appear in 2001, the year when we remember Arthur C. Clarke's prediction that one day we would succeed in creating a thinking machine. In this compelling narrative, David Fogel, author and co-creator of Blondie24, describes in convincing detail how evolutionary computation may help to bring us closer to Clarke's vision of HAL. Along the way, he gives readers an inside look into the fascinating history of AI and poses provocative questions about its future.

  • Brings one of the most exciting areas of AI research to life by following the story of Blondie24's development in the lab through her evolution into an expert-rated checkers player, based on her impressive success in Internet competition.
  • Explains the foundations of evolutionary computation, simply and clearly.
  • Presents complex material in an engaging style for readers with no background in computer science or artificial intelligence.
  • Examines foundational issues surrounding the creation of a thinking machine.
  • Debates whether the famous Turing Test really tests for intelligence.
  • Challenges deeply entrenched myths about the successes and implication of some well-known AI experiments.
  • Shows Blondie's moves with checkerboard diagrams that readers can easily follow.

"Argues convincingly that the future of artificial intelligence lies . . . in programs that can automatically improve themselves over time--without the bias of human knowledge. . . . I wholeheartedly recommend it to the general public and AI experts alike." -- Dr. Peter Stone, Artificial Intelligence Principles Research Department, AT&T Labs Research
"An absorbing and enchanting tale of a personal quest for the deeper meaning of AI." -- Nicholas Gessler, Director, UCLA Center for Computational Social Science
"Leads us to question the accepted vision for attaining true AI." -- Dr. Ian Watson, Department of Computer Science, University of Auckland
"David has written an important and influential book. Not only is the discussion of Blondie24, the cute checker playing heroine of the book, a lively romp through the ins and outs of evolutionary programming but it sets the stage for David's more serious and far reaching discussion of what is right and wrong in our quest for a companion intelligence". -- Earl Cox, Vice President and Chief Scientist, Panacya, Inc.
"Blondie24 is a fascinating and informative book that will be absolutely engrossing for anyone with an interest in artificial intelligence and computers. Although Master-level checkers programs have been around for a while, they have all used brute force to achieve their goals. The Blondie24 project represents the first serious attempt since Samuel's experiments in the 1950s to do something much more interesting and elegant: create a checkers program that can learn on its own. This book is easily accessible for the uninitiated, and I guarantee that you'll be swept along." -- Gil Dodgen, author of the computer program, World Championship Checkers
"My AI students will love this engaging and instructive book, and it will fit perfectly into
my HAL based course on AI Programming. This book will do much in establishing the connection between artificial evolution and artificial intelligence. The ice of the 'AI winter' is at last beginning to melt and it feels good!" -- Dr. Julian Miller, School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham