Chess and Computing



The long-awaited (by me, at least) film Computer Chess is now out.  Directed by Andrew Bujalski, this is one of the few full-length fictional cinematic accounts of computer programmers.  In this case, these are the programmers who developed artificial intelligence programs to compete in chess tournaments.

I have written extensively about the role of these chess tournaments in my paper entitled “Is Chess the Drosophila of AI? A Social History of an Algorithm,” published in early 2012 in the journal Social Studies of Science.  This was one of my favorite and I think, most original, of my publications in the history of software.  You can read a draft version of the paper here.

As an additional coincidence, during the year that I spent on the faculty of the School of Information at the University of Texas in Austin, I accidentally followed Bujalski around.  Every time I would talk to someone about my work — which I thought was incredibly novel — they would nod knowingly and say, “yeah, there was this guy filming a movie about that….”

I have not yet seen the film, but I am looking forward to it.  A review to follow sometime soon.

UPDATE:  I recently found out that the “Is Chess the Drosophila of AI? a Social History of an Algorithm” (Social Studies of Science, 2012) was awarded the 2013 Maurice Daumas Prize by the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC).  For an historian of technology, this is a great honor.


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