Kasparov on AI and Chess

I just read this review, by Kasparov, of a book on computer chess by Rasskin-Gutman (thanks to my friend, Vikram, for pointing me to this). It is a nice critical review and makes me want to read the book.

Two things that stood out from the article:

  • Kasparov mentions an interesting experiment where a bunch of amateurs came out successful, against far more experienced and seasoned grandmasters, by using what he describes as “weak human + machine + better process” (which is better than “strong human + machine + inferior process”). I absolutely agree but would also note that this is not at all surprising to people who are actively engaged in AI research today. The notion of ‘brute force calculation’ that Kasparov discusses earlier in the article, and most lay people associate with AI, is actually a thing of the past (or, at least, not the only or even main game in town). Most people in AI today are quite focused on eliminating the boundary between machine and process as Kasparov imagines it.
  • He concludes his article with the question of why people don’t focus anymore on the seemingly old fashioned questions that initiated computer chess. (I entirely agree with the sentiment in that I too am sometimes frustrated by the level of incrementalism that is forced upon us by the constraints of the time, and – perversely but I don’t think intentionally – by the successes of the time, e.g., the massive data approach of Google, which on the face of it seem to argue the futility of looking for deeper explanations/mechanisms of intelligence). He mentions poker as the alternative game of the times. I would, of course, add that a game like football captures everything he wants to say, and more – once we get beyond the naive objections that the game isn’t intellectual enough. Once we get far enough with this enterprise, good football has as much strategy as a good game of poker or chess (even more so due to the levels of incomplete and misleading information, e.g., my students and I are currently trying to develop a crisp model of the process of ‘marking’ – an extremely simple behaviour but far from trivial). But it also addresses all the questions associated with Moravec’s paradox and disarms the sceptics who object to games played “entirely inside the computer”.
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