Since the mid 1960’s, researchers in computer science have famously referred to chess as the drosophila of artificial intelligence (ai). What they seem to mean by this is that chess, like the common fruit fly, is an accessible, familiar, and relatively simple experimental technology that nonetheless can be used productively to produce valid knowledge about other, more complex systems. But for historians of science and technology, the analogy between chess and drosophila assumes a larger significance. The decision to adopt drosophila as the organism of choice for genetics research had far-reaching implications for the development of 20th century biology. In a similar manner, the decision to focus on chess as the measure of both human and computer intelligence had important and unintended consequences for ai research and development (Ensmenger, 2011).

Computer Chess proposed two methods for the challenge of defeating humans. Methods that used computing power to test every possible chess move, or, creating an intelligence that conceptually understood chess and played like a Grandmaster. This started a debate that would soon emerge within the discipline about the relationship between artificial and natural intelligence. In other words, was it important that intelligent machines think like humans, or was it sufficient that their behaviour appeared to be intelligent? While this might seem at first to be a purely metaphysical distinction, the implications for both the computing and the cognitive sciences are significant: at stake were a set of fundamental distinctions between the class of problems whose knowledge domains are explicit (and therefore potentially comprehensible to a computer) and those whose knowledge domains are tacit (and therefore difficult, if not impossible, to automate) (Brooks, 1990; Collins, 2010). Brute Force methods became the champions of computer chess, and became the fundamental ideology that spread into modern computing. These methods brought with them military, political and financial implications1.

Morality Chess is an exploration into how the same circumstance that lead to Brute Force could be altered to open up new paths of intelligence that operate under a Type B methodology; developing artificial intelligence that operated inside the tacit and ‘human’ sphere of intelligence. Through altering the rules of Computer Chess to include a competitive moral element, could computing be optimised through the same process to alter society, again.

The installation currently exists as a game played against the chess ai Stockfish that overlays a set of new rules to chess that encourage morally ‘correct’ decisions to be made in order to successfully play certain moves within the game. Moves in the game that capture pieces trigger a ‘moral dilemma’ that must be assessed in order to complete the move, if answered successfully the piece is taken, if not the computer misses it’s turn. The moral integrity of the answer is assessed by the human player, and then stored by the computer for assessment of future scenarios. This inherently creates a situation where the human player, like a judge, becomes the benchmark of morality.