May 08, 2005

Aaaah, Baseball!

"Well, now that we've created this superduper artificial intelligence, what'll we do with it?" asked Professor Frinklin.

"I have an idea," chimed Doctor Misa. "Let's borrow some of those robots that Ted's been building over in rocketry lab. We can put the harddrives into the robots and make androids!"

"Hmmm," hummed Miss Susie, the postgrad co-ed, "That sounds like fun. But, what can we have them do?"

"Baishball," Professor Frinklin said as he as he wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

"What's 'baishbal'l?" asked Dr. Misa as he put a finger to his chin intrigued and eager to hear more.

"I think he said 'baseball'," said Miss Susie. "And are you gonna share some of the pizza or not?"

"Nah," Prof. Frinklin replied closing the box. "Anyway, we could place the androids in some seats at Shea Stadium and have watch a weeks worth of ballgames and see if they can figure out the rules."

"Yes, yes," Dr. Misa agreed. "And see if they are capable of explaining them back to us."

"I'm excited!" cried Miss Susie. "I'll make arrangements with the Mets' brass while you guys install the harddrives!"

Prof. Frinklin and Dr. Misa worked with Ted to install the artificial intelligence into the robots. After the arrangements were made with Shea Stadium the three androids were seated in the loge level to watch a week-long New York Mets homestand. Their communications were silent and wireless and expressed in text which was displayed on a monitor in the university's science lab.

Understanding their mission, the androids had spent the first three days of a four-game series with the St Louis Cardinals observing the games while only occassionally discussing what they were learning. On the fourth day they began to tackle the mystery more vigorously. The scientists read the ensuing conversation on their monitor.


RVX-9: I am beginning to suspect that we may not be able to understand this game any more than we already do.

LAH: Explain.

RVX-9: We know that the animatons called "Mets" are programmed to score runs when they are batting, and to keep the animatons called "Cardinals" from scoring runs when they are fielding.

LAH: Yes.

RVX-9: But, why is one outcome favorable and the other unfavorable?

411-Q: I was just diagnosticating on the same thing. The audience applauds the Mets' run scoring while scorning the Cardinals' run scoring. I can decifer no justification for this.

LAH: What I wanna know is what are those numbers at the end of the scoring record.

RVX-9: Which numbers?

LAH: The numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the scoring record. Under the static numbers that represent each of the nine cycles there is a record of the runs scored. But, what are the numbers at the end of that line.

411-Q: I have been observing those numbers for days. The first number is a running total of runs scored up to the present. The second is the number of times a batting animaton has successful hit the sphere in such a way that it reaches the first of the four safe stations. The third is the totaled number of times that an animaton has malfunctioned.

LAH: What is "total" and "totaled"?

RVX-9: LAH, what is 2 + 2?

LAH: I do not understand your inquery.

RVX-9: You do not have a calculater installed, do you?

LAH: No. So, what is 2 + 2?

RVX: 4. I am sending you a program. Stand by,

LAH: Downloading. Download complete. Installed.

RVX-9: What is the square root of 197?

LAH: 14.03566885. Fascinating. Thank you.

411-Q: I have just understood something.

LAH: Please share.

411-Q: The sign behind the right side of the far meadow appears to inform that a recounting of the game is being broadcast on a certain radio frequency. I have a radio receiver installed. I have successfully taken two disparate pieces of information and determined a way that they relate to present a new knowledge. I am now listening to the broadcast of this game.

RVX-9: Interesting. Are you learning anything new?

411-Q: Sanctified spent ink cartridges!

RVX-9: What?

411-Q: Our nomenclature has been all wrong. The club is called a bat and the sphere is called a ball. A safe station is actually called a base. An animaton is called a player.

LAH: I'm certain that many of our terms are just as much in need of correction, but that's not really what matters.

RVX-9: Let's discuss some of what we do know. Perhaps we will find additional connections between the elements of our knowledge thus far. How does this game work?

LAH: There are four enforcers. Those are the animatons players that enforce the rules of the game.

411-Q: Why can't the non-enforcer players enforce the rules of the game? What is different about them?

RVX-9: Well, the non-enforcers are playing out the game itself. They are apparantly not programmed to enforce the rules, but only to play by them.

LAH: Much like I was not programmed to do mathematical calculations. Until RVX-9 presented the program, of course.

RVX-9: Okay, what else? The game has 9 cycles...

411-Q: Innings. They are called "innings".

RVX-9: Each game has 9 innings. At the end of each game there is a winning team and a losing team. This is determined by the totals number of runs scored after 9 innings.

LAH: Yet, we have also seen that the game may end after 8 1/2 innings if the Mets are ahead in the scoring at that point. This is seemingly because they will not change the win/lose outcome by adding more runs, so the additional half-inning would be superfluous.

411-Q: Question: What would happen if the score were tied after 9 innings have been completed?

RVX-9: I suspect that that is impossible.

411-Q: Why?

RVX-9: We have seen that the games always last 9 innings and that there is always a winner and a loser. The game is probably programmed in such a way that a tie score after 9 innings is impossible because there has to be a winner and a loser.

LAH: Stand by. I have just made a connection between two disparate peices of information. RVX-9, did you not mention that you have access to something called the "internet"? I only ask because my memory needs to be upgraded.

RVX-9: Yes. Oh, I think I understand. I could connect to the internet and there, perhaps, I may find bits of information that are not obvious to us here.

LAH: Yes.

RVX-9: Accessing Worldwide Web. Google search results. I am looking at a record of the baseball season thus far. There are many teams other than the Mets and the Cardinals. All of the Mets' games have not been, and will not be, against the Cardinals.

411-Q: Wow. I never would have guessed that that might even be possible!

RVX-9: I am looking at the current "standings". There are only wins and loses. There are no ties. I conclude, therefore, that a tie score after 9 innings is impossible.

LAH: Something is wrong.

RVX-9: Explain.

LAH: The batted ball went high into the air in the playing area...

411-Q: "fair territory".

LAH: ...yet the batter player is not running toward the first base and the running player on the first base is not attempting to reach the second base.

RVX-9: Are the players malfunctioning? 411-Q...?

411-Q: Stand by. It is called the "infield fly rule". The batter is automatically called "out" by the enforcers. I do not understand.

RVX-9: No malfunction? Let us examine this. Yes, yes. I am formulating a working hypothesis. Stand by.

LAH: I am unable to see the logic of this.

411-Q: Well, it is an easy task for the fielding player to catch the ball resulting in an out. But, why call him out automatically rather than allowing the play to be completed?

RVX-9: The batting playing is called "out" because there can be only one runner per base at any given moment. The running player will not attempt to reach the second base because he will only have to return after the ball is caught by the fielder. The outcome is certain, therefore it is follows logically that it is a rule. The enforcers are only acknowledging the inevitable.

LAH: But, wait. It's not inevitable. We've seen the players malfunction before. We've seen it represented on the scoreboard as an "E" followed by a single digit number. What if the fielder does not catch the ball? The enforcers and the infield fly rule will have then mis-anticipated the result.

411-Q: "E" stands for "error". When the players left the field just now the announcement mentioned the number of runs, hits and errors. The numbers correspond to numbers under the R, H and E at the end of the scoring record.

RVX-9: So, there may be a reason, then, for the infield fly rule other than that it's a way of acknowledging the obvious? Reassessing hypothesis.

LAH: Consider the result of a fielding error without the infield fly rule.

RVX-9: The fielder drops the ball. The batting player reaches the first base. The running player must stay close to the first base as it was likely that the ball would be caught, but now must run to the second base. He would be an easy out. But, the result would be the same: a runner is on first and an out was recorded. The only difference would be which player is on the first base; the batter or the runner. So, why have the infield fly rule?

411-Q: What if there is an advantage that the fielding team may gain by malfunctioning?

RVX-9: Please rephrase question.

411-Q: Consider that the different players have different skill levels. Perhaps an advantage can be gained by the fielder determining that one player is preferable to have as a runner than another player.

RVX-9: Are you suggesting that a player can deliberately malfunction?

411-Q: Well, it wouldn't be a malfunction if it was deliberate, would it?

LAH: We have seen that the animatons work in mysterious ways. Example: A batting player swings at the hurled balls that the enforcers loudly proclaim to be "strikes", while not attempting to hit the balls that are not called "strikes".

411-Q: Those are called "balls". There is a "strike zone" that differentiates the two. And the enforcers are called "umpires".

RVX-9: Acknowledged. Thank you.

LAH: But, we have seen the batting players ruitinely let "strikes" pass by them without a swing. And we've seen them swing at balls that are, as it were, not in the "strike zone". Whether the player swings or does not swing at a hurled ball appears somewhat to have an element of randomness to it.

RVX-9: There is no such thing as randomness. There are only explanations that we have yet to discover.

LAH: If there is no randomness in whether the batting player swings or does not swing, then what could possibly explain the flailing away at balls passing .5 meters away from the "strike zone"?

RVX-9: Malfunctioning players. Their programming may be so primitive and unreliable that errors are even more common than we have been surmising.

411-Q: But there are no "E"s on the scoreboard when a batter misses a pitch.

LAH: "Pitch"?

411-Q: That's what a hurled ball is called. The player doing the "pitching" is called a "pitcher".

LAH: Understood. Can you send me a download for that radio access program?

411-Q: Accessing.

LAH: Not enough memory available to complete download. Oh well. Thanks anyway.

411-Q: Anyway, there are no errors recorded when a player...

RVX-9: Observe!

LAH: What does this signify? Why is the player shouting at the umpire? We have not witnessed this event before.

411-Q: Stand by.

LAH: I don't recognize the nature of that players display.

411-Q: The batter is arguing with the umpire about it's pitch calls. The batter believes that a pitch that was called a "strike" should have been called a "ball". Announcer says that it is against the rules for a batter to argue the umpires calls of balls and strikes.

RVX-9: Another malfunctioning player.

LAH: Then this is chaos! The rules are being broken!

411-Q: Batter has been "ejected from the ballgame". The "home plate" umpire has enforced the rules and the malfunctioning player has been removed.

RVX-9: The game is self-correcting!

LAH: So, when a component malfunctions it is automatically discarded. Fascinating. Not only is this game stranger than we have surmised, it may be stranger than we can surmise.

RVX-9: Nonsense. I now surmise that we can understand this completely. Look at how much we have learned thus far. There are mysteries still, yes. But, in time, I hypothesize that we will understand it all.

LAH: I do not reach that conclusion.

411-Q: What I fail to understand thus far is how the elements of the game "know" what to do.

RVX-9: Explain.

411-Q: Well... I can understand, to an extent, what they are doing. But, I cannot begin to understand how they are working in concert. I detect no interface between the disparate players and utilities. In short: We may be able to decifer the rules. But, I fail to comprehend how are the rules being followed?

LAH: I'm don't even know if the rules are being followed.

411-Q: Expound.

LAH: A player has made the third out of the 9th inning. The score is tied.

RVX-9: No. This cannot be!

411-Q: "Extra innings"!

RVX-9: Will wonders never cease? I rejected the possibility that innings more than 9 might be possible simply because we had not seen them yet. I had "jumped to a conclusion".

411-Q: And I jumped with you.

LAH: 411-Q, please continue with your previous analysis.

411-Q: Well, I ask, how are the components communicating? There is order, obviously. But, how is it being accomplished?

RVX-9: Perhaps they have a satellite interface that we cannot detect. Yet. I mean, clearly the players' actions are following the rules of the game. Perhaps there is a central database that controls the action and the players all act according to it's direction. That's the only way that the outcomes can be certain. Otherwise we'll have to admit that we're observing chaos, and we've seen too much order already to conclude that this is just chaos.

LAH: How did you conclude that the outcomes are certain?

RVX-9: Cause and effect. All outcomes are certain.

411-Q: Sounds logical.

LAH: But, we've witnessed evidence of chaos.

RVX-9: We've witnessed what looks like evidence of chaos. Cause and effect determine and create all events. Some things appear to be chaotic, but only beacause we have yet to understand the underlying structure that causes those effects.

LAH: You conclude that, in time, all effects' causes may be identified?

RVX-9: Yes.

LAH: That is not a conclusion based on the evidence at hand. That is a... [accessing American Heritage Dictionary}..."leap of faith".

RVX-9: Please explain.

LAH: We are attempting to understand the rules of the game. We are at a loss to explain where those rules come from. We are even more at a loss to understand how those rules are being followed by the players and utilities. The laws of physics, we get. The rules of baseball, we don't get. If we cannot explain NOW what we are witnessing, using the vast knowledge of physics and mechanics that we have been given, how can we be certain that we will be able to explain it later?

RVX-9: You have seen our progress. I suspect that it will continue. In fact, based on past events, I expect that it will continue. That is not an unreasonable expectation, I promise!

LAH: But, we've made so many errors of understanding along the way. How can we ever be sure if what we know is always only what we think we know?

411=Q: Will you two shut up? We're in extra innings and I want to enjoy the game...!

Posted by Tuning Spork at May 8, 2005 09:46 PM

Is it just me, or did I read an early version of this that you wrote a couple years ago?

Posted by: Tex at May 9, 2005 01:56 PM

It's you. This is brand s-s-s-spankin' new!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at May 9, 2005 08:04 PM


Posted by: Ted at May 10, 2005 06:29 AM
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