In order to win a game of Scrabble, you need to know a lot of words.
Because you never know which combinations of 7 random letters of the alphabet you will get, the player with the largest vocabulary has more possible words, and more potentially longer and higher scoring words, to choose from.
That is why I was surprised to find out that some of the world’s best English language Scrabble players come from Thailand.
Not because there is anything special about Thailand.
Instead, it is because many of the Thai Scrabble champions do not speak any English at all.
They do not know the meanings of most of the words they play.
Yet they have found a way to win the game in a remarkably simple manner.
They just memorise every possible word you can play in Scrabble.
Many of the elite Thai Scrabble players spend hours memorising words in the official Scrabble dictionary.
Many of them will know more than 100,000 English words. Which is about twice the number of a native English speaker.
That way, with any combination of letters, they can find the combination of tiles that brings the highest score on the board.
To them, it is not important to know the meaning of the words. Just whether the combination of letter tiles in that sequence is valid or not.
It is not dissimilar to know machine learning and artificial intelligence systems work.
Those systems can take in huge amounts of data, process it and provide an ideal or new valid answer.
All without actually understanding what they are doing or producing.
I have been thinking about this concept for a while since I have seen the new wave of artificial intelligence based image generators, able to create beautiful art based off a text prompt by a human.
The software does not understand what it is being asked to produce.
All it knows is the millions of parameters it has in its programming data set, how to process new information and requests and how to judge how valid what it has produced is likely to be.
It does not need to understand the meaning.
Perhaps that really will always be the unique human trait of creativity.
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