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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Genetic Programming

Today I've been watching Serena Williams play Lindsey Davenport in the finals of the Australian Open. Williams apparently has some problem with her stomach muscles and is having difficulty moving. On one point, Davenport forced Williams into her backhand corner. Williams returned that shot successfully, but pretty much straight up the middle -- setting Davenport up well. I suspected that Davenport would now hit to the opposite corner, giving Williams a long run to get to the ball. And so did Williams, who began moving back toward the middle of the court.

But, instead, Davenport sent the ball even deeper into Williams backhand corner. This forced Williams to change direction, putting a strain on her sore stomach muscles, and left her further from her forehand corner than before. She returned weakly up the middle. Now, Davenport hit a line drive into Williams' forehand corner. Williams didn't even run after it.

Some of you out there might mistakenly be thinking: That was a very clever decision on Davenport's part. But you'd be wrong! You see, humans are only vehicles for genes to reproduce themselves. We don't really make decisions, we just follow our genetic programming. What you fail to realize is that our ancestors, in their generations of life as hunter-gatherers on the African Savannah, were programmed with an instinct that hardwired the following response into our nervous system: When you find yourself in the finals of a major tennis tournament, facing a dangerous opponent, but one whose mobility is limited by injury, try to force her to move around the court a little more than usual. Therefore, when the "game-situational perceptive programming" through which evolution has enabled us to recognize certain court situations as matching one of hundreds of eidetic patterns stored in our genes indicated the above situation held, Davenport automatically sent a second shot into the backhand corner.

It's amazing that certain people can still believe outlandish explanations of events that involve implausible things like "human choice"!

1 comment:

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