Garry Kasparov on AI and machine learning

Joseph Weizenbaum, creator of ELIZA. “Deciding is a computational activity, something that can ultimately be programmed. Choice, however, is the product of judgment, not calculation. It is the capacity to choose that ultimately makes us human.”

In a recent interesting talk at FICO World, Kasparov quoted from Joseph Weizenbaum book Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, highlighting the unique advantages that humans have over machine intelligence.

In 1976, he sketched out a humanist critique of computer technology in his book “Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation.” The book did not argue against the possibility of artificial intelligence but rather was a passionate criticism of systems that substituted automated decision-making for the human mind. In the book, he argued that computing served as a conservative force in society by propping up bureaucracies as well as by redefining the world in a reductionist sense, by restricting the potential of human relationships.

“He raised questions about what kinds of relationships we want to have with machines very early,” said Sherry Turkle, a professor in the program in science, technology and society at M.I.T. who taught courses with Mr. Weizenbaum on the social implications of technology.

Mr. Weizenbaum also believed that there were transcendent qualities in the human experience that could not be duplicated in interactions with machines. He described it in his book as “the wordless glance that a father and mother share over the bed of their sleeping child,” Ms. Turkle said.

The book drove a wedge between Mr. Weizenbaum and other members of the artificial intelligence research community. In his later years he said he came to take pride in his self-described status as a “heretic,” estranged from the insular community of elite computer researchers.

Kasparov is interestingly becoming a go to expert on AI and his recent book Deep Thinking is highly recommended. His optimistic take on AI will go well with economists and see also Diane Coyle’s quick review of the book.

Kasparov convincingly portrays himself as an optimist about technology, including AI. He sees it as an other tool used by humans, albeit one we haven’t yet figured out to use. He points out also that when some application becomes very familiar, we stop calling it AI and start calling it, oh, Siri. After all, we don’t call our fancy new washing machine a robot, but it is. Anyway, although not a chess afficionado, I enjoyed reading the book and agree with its call for some deep thinking about how to use these amazing, human-invented, new technologies.

omanticizing the loss of jobs to technology is little better than complaining that antibiotics put too many grave diggers out of work. The transfer of labor from humans to our inventions is nothing less than the history of civilization. It is inseparable from centuries of rising living standards and improvements in human rights. What a luxury to sit in a climate-controlled room with access to the sum of human knowledge on a device in your pocket and lament how we don’t work with our hands anymore! There are still plenty of places in the world where people work with their hands all day, and also live without clean water and modern medicine. They are literally dying from a lack of technology.”

— Kasparov, Garry. Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins


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The Chess Master and the Computer;

The number of legal chess positions is 10(40), the number of different possible games, 10(120). Authors have attempted various ways to convey this immensity, usually based on one of the few fields to regularly employ such exponents, astronomy. In his book Chess Metaphors, Diego Rasskin-Gutman points out that a player looking eight moves ahead is already presented with as many possible games as there are stars in the galaxy. Another staple, a variation of which is also used by Rasskin-Gutman, is to say there are more possible chess games than the number of atoms in the universe. All of these comparisons impress upon the casual observer why brute-force computer calculation can’t solve this ancient board game. They are also handy, and I am not above doing this myself, for impressing people with how complicated chess is, if only in a largely irrelevant mathematical way.

This astronomical scale is not at all irrelevant to chess programmers. They’ve known from the beginning that solving the game — creating a provably unbeatable program — was not possible with the computer power available, and that effective shortcuts would have to be found. In fact, the first chess program put into practice was designed by legendary British mathematician Alan Turing in 1952, and he didn’t even have a computer! He processed the algorithm on pieces of paper and this “paper machine” played a competent game.



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Ismail Ali Manik

Uni. of Adelaide & Columbia Uni NY alum; World Bank, PFM, Global Development, Public Policy, Education, Economics, book-reviews, MindMaps, @iamaniku