John Sharples
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Future shocks
IBM’s Deep Blue and the Automaton Chess-Player, 1997–1769
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This chapter considers the context of chess-playing machines, mainly the eighteenth-century Automaton Chess-Player and IBM's Deep Blue and their related forms. It explores how these machines were viewed as behaviourally monstrous, how specific sites of performance and initial impressions determined identity formation, and how resistance to these non-human intelligences highlighted or deprecated specific cognitive processes and mental faculties. The terms of automaton, statue, and magical object coalesce to suggest the resistance of the chess-playing machine to reductionism or essentialism, to constituent parts. The earliest contexts of display regarding the Automaton Chess-Player demonstrate the tensions held by the machine in existing within multiple spaces and between states of being. While the Automaton Chess-Player and Deep Blue fulfilled the definition of virtuosic machines, their contexts of display and masking combined technical achievement, theatrical presentation, and self-promotion. An image such as this represented just one aspect of their cultural representations.

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A cultural history of chess-players

Minds, machines, and monsters


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