OPINION

Machines and magic

Once we decided that man is no more than an imperfect ancestor of the machine, it’s no surprise that we try to interpret every expression of the human body and character, borrowing models from mechanics, chemistry, and information technology. Soccer could not escape the trend of ultra-rationalization, which insists on overlooking the fact that man is much more complex than a simple mathematical equation and, therefore, that a group of men – even an 11-strong group – is characterized by entropy rather than order. Several leading universities, on the occasion of the World Cup, loaded streams of data into their super-computers for the teams taking part in the event and each player separately: their history, their composition, their height and weight, the frequency and ways in which they score, their speed, whether they are right- or left-footed, and so on. The powerful computers, with their huge memories and capacities to run a program innumerable times and at great speeds, drew the same conclusions as we, the non-specialists, draw at the end of our everyday chatter: the favorites will win… The computer programmers probably played with Play Stations when young. They therefore know that according to the machine, and because of its exhaustive stores of information, favorites always win for they have statistics on their side. But soccer, real soccer, escapes the Play Station or computer logic. It is unexpected, unique, non-robotic. On real turf, Senegal can beat France, and the US can beat Portugal…