Mark Thomas Miller

Making the ugly move

In the chess community, artificial intelligence is known for making ugly moves. In fact, when scientists first taught a computer to play chess, its strategies were downright oafish. It lacked any sort of convention or aesthetic.

The AI couldn’t comprehend “pretty” moves, and its lack of elegance showed. People scoffed. The computer only knew, logically, which move had the highest probability of winning.

The ugly moves turned out to be the right ones. In the beginning of the match, people were laughing at computer’s stupidity; by the end, they were losing.

Murray Campbell, one of the IBM developers who created the chess AI, was quoted as saying:

If you’re interested in winning, then you play the right move, even if it’s an ‘ugly’ move.1

When you try to make an ugly move in real life – like going against tradition – you’ll be met with a lot of criticism. The people around you will hate your idea. They’ll throw metaphorical knives into your bike tires as you’re riding (because they care).

And while I can’t say that you’ll always be right, sometimes you just need to make that move. You’ll need to take a few steps back so you can continue walking forward.


  1. Source.