The life of Garry Kasparov is a story of how to go from Man vs. Machine to Man && Machine. And it is a story which starts approximately 2 millennia ago when chess was invented. About 500 years ago it was similar to what we play today and it is also often used as an indicator for intelligence in pop culture: X-Men play it, Spock plays it on multiple levels in Star Trek and Humphrey Bogart plays it in Casablanca.
But before Hollywood used it, it was also a treasure chest for stories.
The mechanical turk
One of the oldest robots is the mechanical turk a fake chess playing “robot” which was actually a person hiding in a machine and playing through a system of mirrors and levers. Today the expression fathers also the myriads of manual workers you can hire online to do pseudo automated work.
The thing is that back in the 18th century it was being cheated by putting a human into a machine and today chess tournaments have the problem of machines used by humans. The whole story is turned inside out.
Turochamp and the rise of chess computers
Fast forward to the middle of the 20th century and Alan Turing who thought that chess is a good base for search and decision algorithms. So Turing set down with Champernowne and they created the first chess program. On paper because at that point there was no computer which would have been able to compute the complex algorithms of Turochamp. For Turing this seemed not to be a problem since he believed in the rise of stronger and faster machines.
And right he was. If you look up chess programs in the wikipedia the list seems massive. Now add the countless variations of chess computers to make the list feel endless.
The Man vs. Machine years
When we fast forward to the nineties we see that chess is dominated by one man: Garry Kasparov. Chess algorithms also evolved and there were countless matches against machines because of popular chess computers. But Garry knew how to top that and faced a supercomputer called Deep Blue.
From today’s point of view the setting was not in favor of the human player. Deep Blue was fed with data from various matches, also having a very decent collection of Kasparov’s. And Kasparov had: NULL. You can find details on these games online. What is important is what happened next.
Garry Kasparov lived up to the theme “If you can’t (always) beat them, join them” and started a journey to find a way for humanity to live through the upcoming next industrial revolution. Kasparov walked away from that moment in the history of artificial intelligence as a man with a passion for finding ways humans and intelligent machines could work together. It was then that the general public became aware of AI and this branch of computer science got a boost.
On that note, one can argue that Kasparov actually won by losing the “man vs. machine” iconic match against the IBM supercomputer in 1996.
AI will transform everything we do. We must press forward ambitiously in the one area robots cannot compete with humans: in dreaming big dreams. Our machines will help us achieve them. Instead of worrying about what machines can do, we should worry more about what they still cannot do. – Garry Kasparov
About Garry Kasparov
He speaks frequently to business and political audiences around the world on technology, strategy, politics, and achieving peak mental performance. He is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Oxford-Martin School with a focus on human-machine collaboration. He’s a member of the executive advisory board of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics and a Security Ambassador for Avast Software, where he discusses cyber security and the digital future.
His famous matches against the IBM super-computer Deep Blue in 1996-97 were key to bringing artificial intelligence, and chess, into the mainstream.
BTW: There are 2^4 chesspieces on a chessboard with 2^5 fields.