Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blink! Feedback from the Comments

My article on the book Blink spurred a lot of discussion in the comments.  Moreso than I usually draw, anyway.  So I felt I should go through them and respond in article form.

Without further adieu...

theantipope: Not sure I am buying this to be honest. Are chess grand masters playing the first move that comes to their mind? And if they did so, would that improve their game? I think in some situations going with gut instinct would work. But a game like 40k is generally counter intuitive (since it's a completely made up thing)so the subconscious should stay out of it :P 

I used the example of Speed Chess in my response to show how even grandmasters practice playing without thinking, or at very least thinking very quickly because honing your gut instincts to be better makes you a better player overall.  But that's not only it.  Chess is extraordinarily complex.  But it's also finite.  The rules are very limiting and while there are literally tens of thousands of possibilities of what your opponent will do next, almost all of the options are suboptimal plays so they can be quickly eliminated.  If you limit your thinking to only the good plays, good attacks, good defenses and possibly allowing for an outside the box strategy or two, you drastically cut down the possibilities to a few dozen.  The ability to cut out all the bad plays is done, even in normal non-timed chess, at the subconscious levels.  While a grandmaster might spend 15 minutes deliberating over his move, you can be sure he isn't deliberating over every possibility: he is only concerned with the ones that have potential.  They use their gut instincts to cut the list of possible plays down to a small enough sample size that they can use their vast conscious analytical skills to make the final decision.  Their turns take long enough, could you imagine if they consciously considered EVERY possible play?  One turn would literally take a human lifetime.

Sam: In particular, there's a chapter on Bill Robertie, world champ in poker, backgammon and speed chess. His method for success is very much like the art experts that Gladwell talks about. Through years and years of practice, and focusing on his failures, he is able to train his instincts to make the best possible decisions based on "feel" alone. 

You're right.  In a game like Chess, Poker, 40k etc, there are simple too many millions of possible outcomes of any particular play, especially when you're trying to think several turns in advance.  If you don't determine some mechanism to limit the amount of possibilities, you'll never finish a single turn as you'll be old and grey.  So clearly, everyone (even the newest players) already uses their instincts quite a bit.  So it becomes a matter of making your instincts better through experience and repetition.

Rhydpedr: hmmm, one thing I'd like to point out is how misleading 'gut instincts' are when coming to a conclusion on something, because what often happens it that you cannot help but stick to that initial 'gut feeling' when coming to decisisons, no matter how much evidence there is against it. Obviously in a game situation there shortage of time would probably force you into acting on your 'gut feeling', but one should really try to keep an open mind in order to explore all possibilities before coming to a decision. 

I would really like to advise you to give the book a read through.  You just cited what would be the common knowledge assumption about how good decisions are made.  Unfortunately, there are mountains of evidence and studies that show otherwise.  Human brains just simply aren't good at determining the correct solution to problems when the amount of variables begin to get complicated.  The more complex the problem, the more likely you'll screw up something in your analysis.

Orleans: Not sure I like the idea of letting my instinct take over target selection. The reason is I generally shoot in a specific order. That order is determined by 2 things, 1 the first unit to shoot has to have the least amount of targets and 2nd the unit has to have a reasonable chance of hurting what it is firing at. This is made to not waste shots. Those are the first 2 things I think about when shooting. Next is the possible hurt an enemy unit will inflict and when this possible hurt will come about. I think thats when I can start to use the instinct part of my decision making process as the decisions become more complex 

You're right about shooting order.  If your Unit A can only shoot at my Unit Z, it makes no sense to shoot your Unit B at my Unit Z first.  If Unit B kills Z, then A will have nothing to shoot at, and you won't have maximized your firepower.  Those kinds of systemic decisions, you're right, do not require you to close your eyes and gut it out.

I'm thinking more about scenarios when you have say, 5 units that can each shoot 5 of my units.  The options for target and order of shooting get very complicated very quickly.   It would not be practical to consider each of the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of possible scenarios.  You have to use some subconscious mechanism to quickly eliminate the sub-optimal plays off the bat.  Experience would allow you to know for instance, that shooting the Tri-Las Predator into the 30 Ork Boyz on foot is almost always a bad play and you can disregard it without spending any mental synapses on it.  Once your subconscious brain narrows it down to the handful of "good plays" then you can deliberate consciously about which to do.  Clearly, there is a great deal to be gained as a player in having a razor sharp ability to cut out the bad plays subconsciously.  If you can cut down the bad plays (or find the good plays) more accurately than your opponent, you get a huge leg up in the match.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to see that you haven't gotten many responses to this one like you did for the other one. I still support this line of thought, and I hope more people do too.

    I hope more people read books like this, instead of relying on their "common sense" ideas of human cognition. Most of our "common sense" ideas about ourselves are false, and comically so. Sadly, they're also firmly implanted, and it takes some critical investigation to dig them out. That's why I applaud the use of empirical results, as Gladwell and Lehrer and others do.