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Author Topic: Strategy & Unusual tactics, "TRAVELLER", Trillion Credit Squadron  (Read 9876 times)

Koltar

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This article /essay was posted over on the SJG Forums, and I thought some of you might find it interesting.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

 The Part about TRILLION CREDIT SQUADRON:
Quote
In 1981, a computer scientist from Stanford University named Doug Lenat entered the Traveller Trillion Credit Squadron tournament, in San Mateo, California. It was a war game. The contestants had been given several volumes of rules, well beforehand, and had been asked to design their own fleet of warships with a mythical budget of a trillion dollars. The fleets then squared off against one another in the course of a weekend. “Imagine this enormous auditorium area with tables, and at each table people are paired off,” Lenat said. “The winners go on and advance. The losers get eliminated, and the field gets smaller and smaller, and the audience gets larger and larger.”

Lenat had developed an artificial-intelligence program that he called Eurisko, and he decided to feed his program the rules of the tournament. Lenat did not give Eurisko any advice or steer the program in any particular strategic direction. He was not a war-gamer. He simply let Eurisko figure things out for itself. For about a month, for ten hours every night on a hundred computers at Xerox PARC, in Palo Alto, Eurisko ground away at the problem, until it came out with an answer. Most teams fielded some version of a traditional naval fleet—an array of ships of various sizes, each well defended against enemy attack. Eurisko thought differently. “The program came up with a strategy of spending the trillion on an astronomical number of small ships like P.T. boats, with powerful weapons but absolutely no defense and no mobility,” Lenat said. “They just sat there. Basically, if they were hit once they would sink. And what happened is that the enemy would take its shots, and every one of those shots would sink our ships. But it didn’t matter, because we had so many.” Lenat won the tournament in a runaway.

The next year, Lenat entered once more, only this time the rules had changed. Fleets could no longer just sit there. Now one of the criteria of success in battle was fleet “agility.” Eurisko went back to work. “What Eurisko did was say that if any of our ships got damaged it would sink itself—and that would raise fleet agility back up again,” Lenat said. Eurisko won again.

Eurisko was an underdog. The other gamers were people steeped in military strategy and history. They were the sort who could tell you how Wellington had outfoxed Napoleon at Waterloo, or what exactly happened at Antietam. They had been raised on Dungeons and Dragons. They were insiders. Eurisko, on the other hand, knew nothing but the rule book. It had no common sense. As Lenat points out, a human being understands the meaning of the sentences “Johnny robbed a bank. He is now serving twenty years in prison,” but Eurisko could not, because as a computer it was perfectly literal; it could not fill in the missing step—“Johnny was caught, tried, and convicted.” Eurisko was an outsider. But it was precisely that outsiderness that led to Eurisko’s victory: not knowing the conventions of the game turned out to be an advantage.

“Eurisko was exposing the fact that any finite set of rules is going to be a very incomplete approximation of reality,” Lenat explained. “What the other entrants were doing was filling in the holes in the rules with real-world, realistic answers. But Eurisko didn’t have that kind of preconception, partly because it didn’t know enough about the world.” So it found solutions that were, as Lenat freely admits, “socially horrifying”: send a thousand defenseless and immobile ships into battle; sink your own ships the moment they get damaged.


Wasn't sure what section to drop this into. If a Mod wants to move into a different section - thats cool.

- Ed C.
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Ian Absentia

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Strategy & Unusual tactics, "TRAVELLER", Trillion Credit Squadron
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2009, 10:24:33 pm »
That's an interesting article, Ed.  I figured it was going to be the usual treatise on the Jump-Capable vs. Battle Tender/Rider fleet comparisons.  Thanks.

!i!

Koltar

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Strategy & Unusual tactics, "TRAVELLER", Trillion Credit Squadron
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2009, 11:04:39 pm »
Its a pretty LONG damn article.
The TRAVELLER stuff was interesting to me, plus the idea of messing up minatures players who think they know everything.

Like I said, thought somebody on here would find it interesting.

 - Ed C.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2009, 12:03:10 am by Koltar »
The return of 'You can't take the Sky From me!'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUn-eN8mkDw&feature=rec-fresh+div

This is what a really cool FANTASY RPG should be like :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-WnjVUBDbs

Still here, still alive, at least Seven years now...

Ian Absentia

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Strategy & Unusual tactics, "TRAVELLER", Trillion Credit Squadron
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2009, 12:00:28 am »
I got a hoot out of the full-court press basketball strategy, too.  It reminded me of the story I heard on the radio some months back about the undersized high school football team that ran every play with a center, two quarterbacks and eight receivers -- they made it to the playoffs because they didn't play a conventional strategy that worked to their disadvantage.

And, of course, I love just about any story that invokes T.H. Lawrence.*

!i!

[*Edit:  Good Lord, that'd be T.E. Lawrence.  I blame the influence of Lady Chatterly's Lover.]
« Last Edit: May 17, 2009, 01:03:25 pm by Ian Absentia »

Bradford C. Walker

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Strategy & Unusual tactics, "TRAVELLER", Trillion Credit Squadron
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2009, 01:56:44 pm »
This also exposes one other problem; the administrators failed to ban the offending element as soon as its presence became noticeable.
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Ian Absentia

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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2009, 02:21:34 pm »
Quote from: Bradford C. Walker;301201
This also exposes one other problem; the administrators failed to ban the offending element as soon as its presence became noticeable.
Do you mean the player in particular, or the strategy he used?  If you haven't read the entire article yet, I encourage you to do so -- the story about the girls' basketball team is enlightening, because, in the end (and, yes, I'm giving the ending away), a referee does squelch the team's completely legitimate strategy in order to defend the status quo.

Pertaining directly to the Trillion Credit Squadron tournament, the player in question was accused of violating the spirit of the game, not the rules.  The first time around, the tournament organisers required that all craft be mobile, so he adapted his strategy to that rule.  The second time around, they pouted and, realising they didn't have any truly legitimate grounds for expelling the competitor, declared that they'd cancel the tournament if he entered again.  Now, understanding both High Guard and TCS as I do, another solution occurred to me almost immediately.  Lenat and Eurisko were winning because, by Lenat's own admission, they were devising inhumane, "socially horrifying" strategies that violated the spirit of the game.  So, codify the spirit of the game -- all ships in High Guard/TCS have crew ratings.  Enforce a penalty for loss of life.  The willingness to embrace "acceptable losses" eventually develops a diminishing return, and at a great enough scale becomes a losing strategy.

The point of the article still stands: The status quo does not like the underdog that beats them at their own game.

!i!
« Last Edit: May 11, 2009, 02:25:42 pm by Ian Absentia »