"Where Mind Struggles with Mind": Chess and the Problem of Consciousness in Poe and Bierce
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractEdgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce write about chess-playing automatons. Both writers utilize the game of chess due to its special connection to artificial intelligence. Chess has an inherent left-right dichotomy due to the asymmetrical structure of the chessboard and the placement of the king in relationship to a player‘s left or right hand. This dichotomy helps to introduce several other binaries seen in "Maelzel‘s Chess Player" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Poe as well as "Moxon's Master" by Bierce. Each work leads to the vital question of whether automatons, or machines, have the capability to think, and how and why chess is significant to answering this question. The binaries of the master-slave relationship and the idea of consciousness and non-consciousness shape these works. Although modern-day computers have the ability to beat humans at chess, the consciousness and the true ability of these machines is widely debated. These literary examples shed light as to why and how chess is critical to showing the adversarial dimensions of artificial intelligence and human consciousness.
Degree ProgramHonors College