Enlarging in his talk upon the favourite example of chess-playing, Alan claimed that
It would probably be quite easy to find instruction tables which would enable the ace to win against an average player.
Indeed Shannon of Bell Telephone Laboratories tells me that he has won games playing by rule of thumb; the skill of his opponents is not stated.
This was probably a misunderstanding.
Shannon had been thinking about mechanising chess-playing, since about 1945, by a minimax strategy requiring the 'backing up' of search trees—the same basic idea as Alan and Jack Good had formalised in 1941.
But he had not claimed to have produced a winning program.
In any case, however, Alan would not consider such a victory very significant.
What we want is a machine that can learn from experience.
The possibility of letting the machine alter its own instructions provides the mechanism for this, but this of course does not get us very far.