I was here when: AI mastered chess

Commentator 2: Deep Blue! Kasparov, after the C4 move, resigned!


Jennifer: I’m Jennifer Strong, and this is I was there when– an oral history project featuring the stories of breakthroughs and watershed moments in AI and computing, told by those who witnessed them. This episode, we meet the man on the other side of that chessboard, Garry Kasparov.

Gary Kasparov: It was inevitable that something depicted on the cover of Newsweek because the last bastion of the brain and in books as big as the moon landing would involve a lot of mythology. I admit that I myself have been caught up in a lot of this hype. It took years of reflection and examination to sort out my impressions at the time from the truth. I wrote about this painful process in my 2017 book, deep thought: When artificial intelligence ends and human creativity begins, it’s easy for a chess machine, after all. They don’t care if they win or lose. They don’t even know they play chess. But as a human and world champion, I felt a lot of emotions sitting in front of a machine.

Gary Kasparov: Would it play like previous machines or would it play like God? I used to read the body language of my opponents. Not really useful, sitting across from a computer engineer doing moves he didn’t understand for the machine he had built. I also used to prepare in depth for my opponents based on their previous matches and their tendencies. Against Deep Blue, that was also out the window as they kept their practice matches a secret. And of course, they could improve his trump cards and change his chess persona with just a few keystrokes. If only I could. It was hard to explain my experience because I was truly the first knowledge worker to have my job threatened by a machine.

Gary Kasparov: Most AIs and previous experiments were hoaxes or quite primitive. For example, the replacement of human lift operators with push-button automatic elevators was very alarming to people in the 1940s. In fact, automatic elevator technology had been around for decades, but people were afraid of it. Also, the elevator operators had a strong union. Today, there are many easy comparisons. Sitting across from Deep Blue was in a sense completely normal. I had been feeding on a chessboard since I was six, and technically it was a little different for me, and yet it was completely different. I had a feeling most people would feel the first time they got into a self-driving car or received a diagnosis from a doctor who specialized in artificial intelligence.

Gary Kasparov: These new wonders are far beyond my nemesis. Sure, the machine I lost to in the 1997 rematch, sometimes referred to as Deep Blue, was as smart as your alarm clock – a $10 million alarm clock, but nothing like previous generations imagined. . This is not to minimize their achievement, which was a Mount Everest of computing: defeating the world chess champion. There was a reason he grabbed worldwide attention. I just want to put into context what we mean when we say smart. Deep Blue did one thing very well with hundreds of specialty chefs, but it was enough to compete at world champion level because chess is deep but not deep enough. Deep Blue did not have to solve failures. He only needed to play better over six games and brute force analysis at fast speeds proved to be enough. It took me a while to absorb the most important lessons from my loss, and they had nothing to do with chess and everything to do with the future of the human-machine relationship.

Gary Kasparov: The period of time we compete with intelligent machines is very short, almost insignificant, and yet we place so much importance on it instead of the ensuing alternative machine supremacy, which really matters. AI automation replaces human jobs, for example, and there is a brief moment of performance equality with humans. But it doesn’t last long, and forever the machines will do it better, cheaper and safer. It is human progress. It makes our lives better. This is not to be insensitive to those who lose their jobs, but even there, study after study, industries with more automation and AI do better with more jobs and higher wages. The alternative is stagnation.

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