Skiophanes’ Proof
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Though it was not his final belief Henri Poincare, a mathematician in the province then known as France, once said that chance is only the measure of our ignorance. And it is both logical and obvious that this is so. If everything were known there would be no chance: each moment would be predictable, the most infinitesimal cause linked irrevocably to its effect. Therefore it would be quite useless to play a game of chance with an all-knowing mind; it would not need to guess; it would know beforehand each result. A man, in such a contest, could only draw or lose. A man, knowing the odds, would not, if he were logical. enter such a contest. And so we can assume that Samuel Kher is not a logical man, for this morning I saw him in Plaka Square, playing dice with a terminal of Delphus, the infallible predictive computer. A small, rectangular board rested on the bench between them and, as I paused to watch, the terminal impassively cast the dice upon it. The five transparent cubes rolled to a stop showing two aces, a king, two nines. The terminal picked up the two aces and cast them a second time: two kings. ‘Full house,’ murmured Kher. Quickly he gathered up dice-cup and dice and brought them together in his thick, powerful hands. A thin, dry rattle trickled across the square. Sunlight, rebounding from the dusty pavestones, glittered in his eyes. He cast the dice upon to the board. They rolled for a moment, jerked like clockwork to a halt. Three nines, a queen, an ace. He threw the queen and ace again: a queen, a ten. Again: a king, an ace. The terminal – an android with a thin, brooding face – quickly gathered them up. Unreasonably, I was embarrassed to see Kher playing such a hopeless game. Rather than witness a fresh disappointment and before he could recognise me I hurried on across the square.
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