Tag Archives: weiqi

Personality: WeiQi & Blogging styles

We are usually blind to how our personality traits influence our politics, our religion and our philosophies.  We convince ourselves that our choices are rational and reasonable while all along our minds dutifully construct those ideas to safely tuck our quirky personalities into our lives’ snuggly niches.

WeiQi_Playing_StylesOne of WeiQi’s many beauties is that you can glimpse a player’s personality by the way they play their stones.  High-ranking, professional WeiQi players often describe this phenomena. For your perusal, here is a fun list of the playing styles of some top professionals as described by other professionals.

To the right I have taken the terms from that list and playfully grouped them into five boxes which I feel share have significant shared qualities.  Then I put those five boxes into two columns — columns which share qualities too.  Perhaps you’d categorize them differently — heck, my boxes probably reveal something of my personality too! 🙂

I play WeiQi on-line — I chat a lot with other players (usually after the game). Over the years many of these players have taken the liberty to tell me exactly how they read my personality from the way I play my stones.  Almost consistently, I have been told that I have several traits from the two boxes on the right — I will let you guess which ones.  But I have never been told that I have any of the traits on the left.  And to think, WeiQi is just a silly game.

Questions for readers:

  • Have you seen your mind’s personality constructing a snuggly philosophy for you?  Or are you deluded to think you are in control? (ooops, was that a biased question?)
  • Do you feel you can see my quirky personality in blogging style — in the way I lay out words, diagrams and ideas?  I give you permission to speculate on my personality, but more importantly, try speculating on how you feel my personality molds my philosophy.

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My Petty WeiQi Gripes

Placing_Go_StoneUnderstanding an author’s personality, helps you weigh his/her writings.  So to round out your understanding of me, I thought I’d show another side of myself:  I am a petty person, full of unnecessary silly gripes.

For example, I play an inappropriate amount of an on-line board game called WeiQi — see my other posts here.  And here are just some of things that piss me off about some on-line KGS WeiQi players:

  • Selfish Players (~):
    players who have a tilde(~) next to their rank tells us that they rarely play ranks lower than themselves.
    They are selfishly only concerned with your own rank. As a penalty, KGS attaches a tilde to your ranks so we can avoid selfish players. I will play tildes free — it help me avoid a tilde of my own while not rewarding their selfish behavior. See more here: https://www.gokgs.com/help/tilde.html
  • Game Scammers:
    players who mess with komi and handicaps (others don’t, why do you think you are special?)
  • Lack of Aesthetics:
    players who don’t use avatars (avatars beautify KGS)
  • Lack of Creativity:
    players who make handles with letters and numbers without meaning (seriously, be a bit more creative or I won’t play with you)
  • Rudeness:
    make violent or rude handles (this one is obvious, I ban them)
  • Arrogance:
    use handles with “Dr” in their name (seriously, relax, you ain’t no Dr. when you play WeiQi!)
  • Time Wasters:
    don’t list the ranks they want to play (1k – 13k) in the game offers (please don’t waste our time)
  • List Makers:
    make “pet peeve” lists and use emoticons   🙂

Questions for Readers: So, what are your pet peeves about blogs?

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Autism, WeiQi and Patternicity

autistic-brain_temple-grandin_hresI greatly enjoyed Temple Grandin’s book “Thinking in Pictures” (2007) so when I saw Wired’s excerpt from her new book “The Autistic Brain” (2013), I gave it a read. Unfortunately Grandin did the classic move of dividing people up into limited categories .  She tells us there are three kinds-of-minds: visual, verbal and pattern-thinking minds. The article is her efforts to illustrate her schema.

Dividing people into types is a tried-and-true marketing scheme.   Whether it is Astrology, Japanese Blood-Types or Myer-Briggs typing, the temptation of simplicity lures the human brain into feeling it understands something when it doesn’t. But, sometimes such simple rules capture more usefulness than detriment for the person that buys into it. This is the root of the believing mind.  But categorizing is also one of the methods of science– but science should then test their categories and be willing to cast them aside when more accurate patterns are found — this doesn’t happen for the believing mind.

Grandin’s article does a fun job discussing “patternicity” as an aspect of mind.  “Patternicity” was actually coined by Michael Shermer, a well-known atheist skeptic.  Adding “Patternicity” to a way of viewing other minds is valuable, especially for people that have bought into the simpler version which sees only two types of mind: verbal and visual.

Anyway, in one of her paragraphs, I was disappointed when Grandin tries to illustrate her 3-view model using the game of Chess. Being a player of  both WeiQi and Chess, I feel WeiQi would have been a far better choice. Below are the skills I think are needed to play good WeiQi (I thought I take a stab at categorizing too):

  1. Concentration Skills
    “Reading”: looking many moves ahead. Avoiding distraction.
  2. Patternicity Skills (this is the magic aspect of the game)
    (a) Understanding “stone shapes”
    (b) Whole board viewing
  3. Area Recognition Skills (visual)
    Judging one enclosed irregular area size vs another
  4. Analytic Skills
    (a) Tetsuji (“tricks”): Memorized small tactical methods
    (b) Joseki: Memorized larger tactical patterns

I am a very low-level Weiqi  player and am weak in all these categories, but I think my weakest, improvable skill is #3.

In the Wired excerpt, Grandin makes a very important point:

“If people can consciously recognize the strengths and weaknesses in their ways of thinking, they can then seek out the right kinds of minds for the right reasons.”

It is important to understand the limitations of our own minds, and those of others.  We can use this information to:

  1. Avoid situation where our deficits may harm us
  2. Improve our weaknesses
  3. Seek out others to supplement our deficits and protect us from ourselves

All of us come with a unique mixes of skills — understanding what kind of animal we are can help us be compassionate to both ourselves and others; Or it can help us to understand why others may be wrong, or worse, dangerous.  Learning to supplement deficits, can improve ourselves, our workplace and our communities.

I think I will read Grandin’s new book.  As a brilliant, successful, autistic person, her ways of thinking (even if using models I think are too simple) supplement my weaknesses fantastically.  And someday, I may also focus on my geometry skills in WeiQi.

Question to readers:  Give us an example of one of your weaknesses and tell us how you have used that insight to improve your life or the life of others.

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Play WeiQi ! !

  • The Name: WeiQi (Chinese) goes by many names:  “Go”(English), “Igo”(Japanese), “Baduk”(Korean).
  • WeiQi Beginner BooksJanice Kim’s Beginners series is great but there is plenty on-line stuff for those who don’t want books.

WHY PLAY WEIQI

  • MEET GOD :  Why would I talk about a board game on this site — well, if there is a god, you can meet her in this game for sure !!  If math is the language of God, WeiQi is the Dance of God.
  • UNIQUE & “EASY” : It is unlike any other game you have ever played.  The rules are easy to learn but the implications are amazing and hard to comprehend.  So don’t venture in if you don’t like challenges.
  • BEST Strategy Board Game:  Best on the planet !  Yeah, it looks like Othello but that is a laughable superficial comparison.  WeiQi makes Chess look easy.
  • USE YOUR FULL MIND: It requires you to use both the analytic and the intuitive sides of your mind.  It mimics life in many ways that invites philosophical conversations after a game. I have several posts based on the game: see my index post here.
  • GRADUAL TRAINING & HANDICAPS:  It is a handicap game, so a skilled play can play beginners and both can have a fun game and both have a 50% chance of winning.Different Boards:  Beginners start on a 9×9 board to learn, progress to a 13×13, then a full board (19×19). Thus not overwhelmed in the beginning.

HOW TO LEARN TO PLAY, On-Line 

  1. Finish all the tutorials here.
  2. Do Basic Life-Death Problems
  3. Play against a computer
    • Careful here.  People and computers play very differently.  Only play against a computer until you can win with 3 or 4-stones handicap on a 9×9 board or 5-6 stones on a 13×13 board.
    • Smart Go is great for I-Phone.  Anyone know Android apps?
  4. Finally! Sign up to play with the huge, world-wide, all-levels, friendly on-line community:
    See up an account on KGS. Here is how:

    • Click on “Download the Client and SGF Editor”
    • Click on: CGoban for Java Web Start
    • Sign in and registrar.  This part is a bit tricky but if you can’t pull it off, WeiQi is probably the wrong game for you anyway!  (smile)
  5. Then, notify me by e-mail and we can meet and play.  On KGS my handle is “Mosquito“.  I am only 8 Kyu, many of you will beat me quickly! (sniffle)

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WeiQi’s Third Eye

WeiQi, unlike most other games, seems to demand skillful use of both aspects of mind — the analytic, careful, algorithmic side (left brain) and the big-picture, artistic, feeling side (right brain).  When playing, a player can often feel which side of the brain his opponent favors and thus help in defeating.  A key to advancing in the game is to learn how to jump skillfully between these two viewing methods– analytic (small and focused) and the big-picture method.

David Chapman has a blog-book called “Meaningness” where he analyzes religious attitudes toward life into the classic two responses of “Eternalism” and “Nihilism”.  He proposes that while both of these views offer strengths, both are incomplete and mistaken so that even a compromise or “Middle Path” between them is also mistaken.  He suggests that “Meaningness” is the correct third perspective.

He has an excellent table here comparing and contrasting these philosophical/mental stances.  His table reminded me of WeiQi where, similarly, big-picture viewing (think, “Eternalism”)  has its strengths but can be blinding just as analytic thinking (think, “Nihilism”) is critical to success but dependence on it also limits advancement in the game.  I have felt like a balance between the two is ideal, but perhaps very high ranking players have naturally discovered a third view (think, “Meaningness”).  OK, my tendency to draw parallels in diverse areas of knowledge may be stretching things here, but something feels right about it.  For me, at my low level of WeiQi skill (a mere 8-kyu),  WeiQi has helped me see the defective sides of both aspects of my mind as well as their usefulness.  Maybe someday, glimmers of a third way , a third eye, will become clearer.  So may I proselyte again: even at a rudimentary skill level, WeiQi invites philosophy like no other game I know.

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Life is a Game

I actually like the expression “Life is a Game”.  However, many folks find this expression objectionable or even repugnant.  However, I find that most of their aversions  are simply due to one or more of these reasons:

  1. The Nature of Life: The person usually does not understand their own life. (ouch, sorry)
  2. The Wonder of Games: The person vastly underestimates the beauty, complexity, depth and awesome potential of games.
  3. The Spirit of Play: The person does not have enough “play” in their life. (ouch, sorry)

I will briefly elaborate these points below so that perhaps if you weren’t comfortable with thinking of life as a game before reading this post, you will after:

The Nature of Life

Games can be rich, unpredictable, complex and inspiring — much like the fun aspects of life.  They also can be horrible, of course — especially when you are loosing.  Here are two perspectives needed to see games-life metaphor:

Kitani Minoru vs Go Seigen

  • An Algorithmic Perspective:
    Simple algorithms can be deterministic but still unpredictable [see: cellular automatons]. These algorithms have been shown to create incredibly complex beautiful, inspiring patterns similar to those that evolve in the biological world, the quantum world and the cosmos.
    This determinism in games is the felt “fate” aspect of life — the understanding that much more is out of our control then we can even imagine.  Though we often feel in control, there are mechanisms that are predictive — often simpler mechanisms than we can imagine.
  • A Probability Perspective:
    If we understand all the contingencies of our immensely inter-connected world, the “luck” in life (as in a game) becomes apparent.  The world is not controlled by a great virtue-rewarding karma-machine, nor by our ancestors nor by any spirits or gods.

The Wonder of Games

When I say, “life is a game” most folks only imagine a few simple simple games like “Crazy Eights”, “Tic-Tac-Toe” , “Shoots and Ladders” and such.  But if a person has played several sophisticated games with mixtures of skill and strategy (and yes, luck), they may understand the analogy of Life-is-a-Game a little more easily.  And if someone has played the game of WeiQi for any length of time, they would certainly emphatically agree with the analogy. 🙂

Some see the expression “Life is a Game” as debasing life because life is not simple.  But sophisticated games help escape this complaint.

When playing WeiQi, one can see simple rules unfolding in unexpected beauty.  One can see complexity constrained with discipline and reflectiveness.  One can see luck where one expects skill.  One can feel wonder and awe.

The Spirit of Play: Joy and Horror

To a large extent, this is a temperament issue.  Humor, exploration, excitement and such are components of what helps someone enjoy play.  Animals do it too.  But not everyone feels this as deeply as others.  For those people,  discussion on this issue will make no sense.  It is funny how temperaments form our philosophies. For example some people, saying “Life is a Game” can be used negatively:  as summary of their depression, exacerbation, felt-meaninglessness and such — and indeed, a lost game captures this too.  For games can also be as horrifying as life.

Question for Readers:  What do you feel about the expression “Life is a Game“?  Have I altered your opinion?

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Meta-Thought

I was teaching a friend the amazing game of “Go” (“WeiQi” in Chinese). In the game, the principle of “life and death” is crucial, and my friend was having trouble seeing if his group of stones had the potential to live through a battle. I pointed out to him, that, in this game, a player must learn to look at the empty spaces and not just look the stones themselves.  Seeing-the-empty-spaces is a skill required to progress in WeiQi.  Below I give an example.

Here is an example puzzle:
White is to kill Black’s stones.
The untrained eye will only focus on
the Black & White stones
But the simplicity of the problem
is revealed when,  White looks at
Black’s empty spaces (red)
and ignores Black’s stones.

Being an accomplished trumpet player, my friend immediately understood and related this WeiQi principal to what he had learned about Jazz.  To illustrate, he told me a Jazz story — he carefully warned me that it may be apocryphal – but it makes the point.

Apparently, as a young hot shot, Wynton Marsalis was already technically an unsurpassed trumpet player who could play crazy runs and riffs. But one of his mentors, Stanly Crouch, told Marsalis that his Jazz was soulless. Crouch quoted Miles Davis saying, “Jazz is the notes you don’t play“.  Marsalis took his mentor’s teaching to heart and became one of the world’s most accomplished trumpet players.

This parallel between the Jazz principle of silence (notes-unplayed) and the WeiQi principle of seeing-the-empty-space was crystal clear to my friend.  I feel that a Meta-Thought informed both principles in my friend’s mind.  This seeing-the-empty-space idea is can be further illustrated as an element in the Japanese aesthetic principle of Wabi-Sabi.  My point is that seeing/hearing/feeling the empty space is a deep principle that informs diverse areas.  I call that deep principle “Meta-Thought”.

Another example of Meta-Thought happens in language.  I often, when speaking in English, I have ideas that pop into my head that first find expression in Japanese rather than English even though I am also speaking to an English speaker. I then have to struggle to get the idea out of Japanese and into English (which can look awkward 🙂  ).  Similarly, sometimes while thinking about a philosophical idea, a WeiQi pattern floats into my head to express the thought before I can put it into philosophical terms.  I remember when this first happened because I thought I was just daydreaming about WeiQi until I realized that my mind was floundering to express a Meta-Thought using WeiQi patterns.

In my vocabulary, “Meta-Thought” is what lies behind thought.  Meta-Thought  gives birth to expression.  Meta-Thought grabs vehicles to express itself while it is forming. Thus, the same Meta-Thought could be expressed in music, in WeiQi, in a computer program, in a sculpture, in a mathematical express or in a dance. People fluent in two or more creative expression styles often have that amazing experience of feeling the simultaneous expressions from a common Meta-Thought.  I think that the epiphany of Meta-Thought is captured in part of what E.O.Wilson’s wrote in his book, “Conscilience“.

To me, Meta-Thought is the complex relationships of impressions and feelings that create our thoughts — it is the EN of thought.

Why write about this? I think Meta-Thoughts also inform our theologies and philosophies.  Thus, though two people may have different theologies or philosophies, with careful observations we can sometimes reveal similar Meta-Thought informing both of these apparently diverse expressions. For me, the principal of Meta-Thought is key to fruitful religious dialogue.  Even in the extreme,  I feel that an Atheist and a Theist could each have very similar Meta-Thoughts informing large swatches of their apparently contradictory worldviews.

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Note:  I am sure others have said something like this before me and so I have probably made up a term when I don’t need to.  So if the reader knows of these, please let me know.  In linguistics, perhaps my “Meta-Thought” is similar to the concept of Mentalese and in Philosophy of Mind, perhaps it is similar to the Language of Thought Hypothesis.  I am, however, not at all familiar with all  subtle analytic pros and cons of these positions.  My Meta-Thought metaphor is simple but it has served as a good model for me to understand my mind.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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