Saturday, October 17, 2009

Teaching "tic tac toe" to a chicken

It’s quite easy to teach a chicken to play Tic Tac Toe, provided that you have the right equipment.

All you need is a Skinner box, some flip-flops, steppers, timers and switches, and a little knowledge of basic game simulation.

Some casino’s offer a “chicken challenge”, where suckers try to "beat the bird:

Do you "beat the chicken"?

I studied under Professor Emeritus Frank Logan, former chair of the Yale department of Psychology and one of the top behavioral scientists of the 20th century.

Frank taught me how to automate Skinner boxes, and once you know how to devise the learning tool, all you do is plop-in the chicken, and it learns to play toc-tac-toe all by itself.

One trick chicken

Because tic tac toe follows well-structured decision rules, Chickens can easily be trained to play simple games like tic tac toe using Skinner boxes and the principles of operant conditioning.

When broken-down into a flattened decision tree, tic tac toe strategy becomes so simple that a chicken can do it:

The decision rules of tic-tac-toe can be presented linearly

The electronics simulates game after game of tic-tac-toe, so that a chicken will sit through hundreds of games each day. When the chicken makes a correct answer they get a treat, a wrong answer produces no reward.

That’s all there is to it!

Tic Tac Toe is a fun game for young children because they have not learned that the decision rules are fixed, and therefore perceive tic tac toe as a game of skill.

Janet has trained many a trick chicken, including “Clucky” a chicken trained to sit on a broomstick!

Lots of people teach chickens to play tic tac toe and them plop them into roadside attractions, to amuse the tourists.

The trainers, being part B. F. Skinner and part P. T. Barnum, use hyperbole when explaining how a chicken is taught to play tic tac toe:

“With his many years of training and working with animals, Bunky has an eye for raw talent - and when he began working with Ginger, he saw something in her he hadn't seen before. The sparkle of stardom - and that's when he knew she was going to be a star!”

Here are a video of a chicken playing tic tac toe: