Was listening to Umberto Eco on The Connection this morning, and it struck me that all this Big Blue playing chess is hardly an assault on the human intellegence by computers. It's a good start; don't get me wrong. I think the ability for men to compete with computers in the game of chess shows just how resourceful men can become in an arena where there are, ultimately, a limited number of moves for any given situation. But computers can and do rule chess, even if Kasparov can play the best to a draw, give or take. Just take a shot at any take-home computerized chess set and you'll see that, for about $40, Joe and Jan Q. quite quickly go down to the silicon.

The true [a truer?] test of a computer versus a human will be passed once a computer is able to quickly and easily translate between one langauge and another. Everything I've read of Eco (not that he's written that horribly much, as much time as he takes between his works of art) has been in translation, and Eco went to some links during the show to talk about how he "negotiates" a translation out of a translator to recreate in another language what he was trying to create the first go around on his own in Italian.

Anyhow, I won't go into examples and the like. Take a listen online if you'd like more. Eco apparently ran part of the King James' Bible through babelfish, as well as the works of Shakespeare, apparently with pretty humourous results. One a computer can sit down and translate a work like Eco's flawlessly between langauges (as I can't imagine that we'll be able to set out a range of rules for this one -- the computer will have to have learned on its own), then we'll be in trouble.