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  • Chess and its metaphors

    Thu, 25 Feb 2010 04:07

    I like the title of this book, Chess Metaphors: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind, almost as much as any of the ones chosen for the British Diagram Prize! And great to see it getting reviewed -- by none other than Russian chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov, don't you know! -- in the New York Review of Books:

    In 1985, in Hamburg, I played against thirty-two different chess computers at the same time in what is known as a simultaneous exhibition. I walked from one machine to the next, making my moves over a period of more than five hours. The four leading chess computer manufacturers had sent their top models, including eight named after me from the electronics firm Saitek.

    It illustrates the state of computer chess at the time that it didn't come as much of a surprise when I achieved a perfect 32-0 score, winning every game, although there was an uncomfortable moment. At one point I realized that I was drifting into trouble in a game against one of the "Kasparov" brand models. If this machine scored a win or even a draw, people would be quick to say that I had thrown the game to get PR for the company, so I had to intensify my efforts. Eventually I found a way to trick the machine with a sacrifice it should have refused. From the human perspective, or at least from my perspective, those were the good old days of man vs. machine chess.

    Eleven years later I narrowly defeated the supercomputer Deep Blue in a match. Then, in 1997, IBM redoubled its efforts -- and doubled Deep Blue's processing power -- and I lost the rematch in an event that made headlines around the world. The result was met with astonishment and grief by those who took it as a symbol of mankind's submission before the almighty computer. ("The Brain's Last Stand" read the Newsweek headline.) Others shrugged their shoulders, surprised that humans could still compete at all against the enormous calculating power that, by 1997, sat on just about every desk in the first world (more...)

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