Computer Chess Club Archives




Subject: Kasparov [HBR interview] : 'IBM committed a crime against science.'

Author: Josť AntŰnio Fabiano Mendes

Date: 07:33:01 04/26/05

                   Harvard Business Review, April 2005

Speaking of analytic prowess, what was the significance of your famous matches
with IBMís chess-playing supercomputer, Deep Blue?

For a start, they were a huge promotion for the game. Nothing made chess more
popular than the match I won against Deep Blue in 1996 and the match I lost in
1997. The official Web site got 72 million hits during the six games of the
second match in New York, which was a higher daily rate than the Atlanta Olympic
Games Web site got in 1996.

But the matches meant a lot more than that to me. Competing with a computer was
first and foremost a scientific experiment for me. I thought it was very
important for society to start communicating with computers, and I knew that
chess was the only field where man and machine could meet. You canít do it with
mathematics or with literature. Chess, however, lies somewhere in between. I
believed that it would be an ideal playing field for comparing human intuition
with the brute force of a machineís calculation.

The yardstick of victory, I think, should be this: If the best human playeróon
his best day, at his peakócan still beat the best machine, then we can say that
the chess master is superior to the machine. And for now, I believe that chess
masters like me still have the upper hand. I can beat the machine unless I make
a fatal unforced error. But when the chess master can no longer defeat the
machine on his best day, then we will have to take a cold, hard look at issues
such as artificial intelligence and the relationship between man and machine.

Unfortunately, I donít think everyone shared the same spirit of experiment. The
day after the New York match against Deep Blue, the one I lost in 1997, IBM
stock immediately jumped 2.5% to a ten-year high. It continued to rise
dramatically for weeks. For some reason, Lou Gerstner did not invite me to the
next IBM shareholdersí meeting to take a bow! But seriously, I wish that IBM had
accepted my offer for a tiebreaker. To my mind, IBM actually committed a crime
against science. By claiming victory so quickly in the man-versus-machine
contest, the company dissuaded other companies from funding such a complicated
and valuable project again, and thatís the real tragedy.

             Did it hurt your pride to be beaten by a computer?

No, not at all. Let me explain this by telling you a little anecdote. In 1769,
the Hungarian engineer Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen constructed a chess-playing
machine for the amusement of the Austrian empress Maria Theresa. It looked like
a purely mechanical device, shaped like a person. And it played chess very well.
But the machine was a fake. There was a chess master cleverly hidden inside the
device who decided all the moves.

In some ways, Deep Blue was also a fake. The machine I played with in 1996 and
1997 had no history. Records of its past games were better guarded than
top-secret documents at the Pentagon. And since IBM refused to release printouts
of earlier games, it was impossible to prepare for the match. I couldnít feel
badly about losing because I wasnít playing on a level playing field.

       What, if anything, did we learn from your contests with Deep Blue?

We learned, of course, that we are very slow compared with the machine, like
ants compared with a jet. But itís not just speed. Playing against a chess
computer means facing something that doesnít have any nerves; itís like sitting
across the table from an IRS agent during a tax audit. Chess between humans and
computers is very different from chess between only humans. For one thing, human
players have to cope with a lot of external pressures and distractions: you have
a family, you write books, you give lectures, you get headaches, you have to
earn money. Thereís a lot of stuff filling up your brain while youíre playing. A
machine, on the other hand, is completely without distractions. This shows the
weakness, the shortcomings of the mortal mind, which is a daunting lesson for
human beings. We just canít play with the same consistency as a computer. So
itís all the more fortunate that we have our intuition to help us play better.

This page took 0.07 seconds to execute

Last modified: Thu, 15 Apr 21 08:11:13 -0700

Current Computer Chess Club Forums at Talkchess. This site by Sean Mintz.