Claude Shannon's Chess Board
Computer chess set
“Ha, the only electronic chess worth playing” – Artie Nielsen


Claude Shannon


Chess Board


Entropy Reduction


Reverse Occam’s Razor


Moving a white pawn

Collected by

Warehouse 13







Date of Collection

August 29,1997



Claude Shannon – mathematician, engineer, cryptographer and the originator of present-day communications. His idea was to use a simple yes-no system for understanding circuits, with a completed circuit being considered as “on” and a shorted circuit “off”. Its simplicity was transferred to pure information theory, now recognized as binary bits 1 and 0. Working with Bell Labs saw breakthroughs in proving the strength of the one-time pad and filtering out sent messages from random noise.

Information theory was his baby. The gist was measuring information like any other physical property in terms of order – separating out all the chaotic possibilities to reach the most likely message. His works serve as the current foundation for modern computing and electrical systems.

During spare time, Shannon loved unicycling, juggling and tinkering on machines. Which obviously led to an electronic rat maze and flame spouting trumpet. Among his favorite hobbies was chess. In one paper, he calculated there were at least 10120 possible variations for a single game to become – more than the number of atoms in the universe!


Playing lets the user minimize uncertainty in their lives, regardless of the winner. Random events happen less often and life becomes predictable. Sometimes boring, sometimes relaxing, but always predictable. Expected normalcy continues until the players rematch or all the match pieces are neutralized.

Leaving uncompleted however triggers a reverse reaction. Normal everyday activities will still be finished, but in the most unusual and roundabout ways not imaginable. Baking a casserole? That will be done in 3 hours, after rescuing the police chief for their signature recipe, falling into a frozen lake in summer to receive complimentary heating gas for your senior self and correctly diagnosing a fellow pediatrician in exchange for a suitable spatula. Be warned: it’s potent!

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