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5 things your brain does better than a computer

July 29, 2012, 12:05 p.m.
Image from Starcraft

Photo: Tyler Ford/Flickr

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Play Starcraft

Starcraft is a hugely popular real-time strategy video game that pits three races of combatants against one another in a battle for universal dominance. Each of the three races — human, Zerg (think alien/bugs from "Starship Troopers"), and Protoss (psychic humanoids with badass space armor) — have their own unique abilities that offer a beautifully balanced palette for wreaking martial chaos. Humans can play in single-player mode and fight to defeat the built-in computer AI or take to the 'Net to challenge other human players. Starcraft (and its sequel) are so popular in South Korea that top players pull in six-figure incomes and are well-known national celebrities.

Starcraft is another one of those games that offers a technical challenge to computer algorithms because of its complexity. There are nearly 100 different units and buildings that a player can choose and countless variations of upgrades and options to invest in. Top players combine lightning fast reflexes (Starcraft technical prowess is measured in Actions Per Minute or APM, how many things a player can make happen in game in 60 seconds. This video shows one Korean player hitting 300 APM). While a computer can certainly match and exceed humans in the field of Actions Per Minute, they don't do as well when it comes to overall strategy. Computer scientists are making big strides on this front. In 2010, Spain's top player was defeated by Berkley Overmind, a computer program developed by computer science students and faculty at UC Berkeley, but computer artificial intelligence still falls short of being able to beat the top human players every time.