Nico Appel

personal blog

Last seen in: Berlin, Germany
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Domain Independence

Nassim Nicholas Taleb differentiates between “domain dependence” and “domain independence” in his book ‘Antifragile – things that gain from disorder‘. He writes:

Some people can understand  an idea in one domain, say, medicine, and fail to recognize it in another, say, socioeconomic life.

Here’s how my endeavours in chess lead to some curious insights in other areas, or domains, for that matter.
You all have heard statements like “Playing chess develops your ability for abstract thinking”. Well, that actually is a little abstract, isn’t it? Let’s look at some examples instead and move things from one domain to others:

Forced lines

It happens in chess that a certain sequence of moves – a “line” in chess lingo – is unavoidable once the initial move is made. As a result of experiencing forced lines while playing chess, I began to see them in real life as well. This helped me to avoid some of them and also to surrender to some others as “there really nothing you can do” – so stop trying to re-evaluate this over and over.

Or course, I also became aware of how others get and can be lead into forced lines. In a situation where you would think about what and how to answer a certain email for example, you can often times foresee what the other party will be more or less forced to do (and what alternatives they could have). It sounds very cold and cunning if you write it that way but at the same time this is going on nevertheless. It’s unavoidable in itself, so there’s no use in denying it or saying it’s bad. It’s just forced and that doesn’t feel good, does it?

Ecology – the study of consequences

“Well, if I do this, then … and …”

A great quote from a great book, Dune by Frank Herbert:

The highest function of ecology is understanding consequences.

Chess teaches ecology. To understand whether a move is good, you have to look at the likely and the possible consequences.
It’s also fascinating to experience how you’re getting better at grasping how the pieces relate and inter-depend. This is referred to as tactics, as far as I know.
There is the concept of “pins” where one piece can’t move because it would cause another piece to be taken. In this example, the Queen is lost after the Rook move.

Chess-tactics-image pin-attack absolute

Of course, as a student of chess you want to avoid these situations and get better at spotting them earlier. At the same time, any player will try to force their opponent into these types of situations. I was able to find similar situations in negotiations and other social situations where it became quite obvious how doing or not doing something would force others (or myself for that matter) to certain actions.

Decision making á la Garry Kasparov

Every decision contains components of material, time and quality. While material and time is understandable, quality is the factor that we have to adjust in our decision making system. – Garry Kasparov

In chess, decisions have to be made in a limited amount of time. The quality of the decision seems to be mainly dependent on the capacity of the player in as how much he knows about the game / position as in learned understanding, how well he can focus and how much processing, or calculating as chess players call it, he can do within the time limits (on a meta-level the player has to decide how much time he will spend on the decision).

Garry Kasparov’s book is called “How life imitates chess“.
(I haven’t read it yet. Instead, this section was inspired by his appearance on “authors @google” talks through which I was also introduced to N. Taleb).

Side note: While this is a look at the conditions and components of decision making from the outside, a model to look at the internal process of decision making was developed in NLP. In said model the sequences we go through to decide something are called strategies.