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Shahar Kedar
Shahar Kedar

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Why chess super computers do not excite me, but LLMs do

This post is my humble attempt to share a random "shower thought."

Chess is an amazing game. For me, it's one of the top strategy games ever invented. So why am I not excited when I think about chess supercomputers? Why am I not amazed by this grand technology the same way I'm amazed by grandmasters?

I think the answer is that chess supercomputers have only a single application - playing chess. [Chess software is also great for learning chess, but I'm pretty sure you don't need a supercomputer to learn chess. Just to beat grandmasters. Please prove me wrong.]

But wait, there are many inventions that have only a single application that are exciting (e.g., penicillin), so what's the difference? The difference is that it's quite impressive to see people playing chess at the highest level, while it's not really impressive (for me) to see a computer playing chess at the highest level. Just like it doesn't impress anyone (anymore) that computers run complex arithmetic computations at the blink of an eye.

LLMs, on the other hand, are very exciting. Language is another skill that humans possess that, up until recently, was hard for computers to successfully imitate. To some extent, LLMs can do amazing things with language that humans can't (or can't do as fast as computers). However, what's more exciting to me is the countless applications that humans can build on top of LLMs. It was amazing to hear the hubbub of ideas thrown around the office, on social networks, or practically everywhere I went when people started to use ChatGPT. It felt as if humans unlocked something in their minds that up until that point was only constrained by their imagination. For me - that's beautiful (as well as terrifying, but that's for a different post).

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