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Technological advancements and racing with the machines

Author: Andrew McAfee, James Kirk (

Categories: Artificial Intelligence, Digital Trends, IT Strategy
Tags: Deep Blue, Gary Kasparov, IBM
Technological advancements happen faster than we might expect. Andrew McAfee discusses how we can work with artificial intelligence:

Technological advancements in the game of chess

The progression that we’re seeing is that initially computers, robots, artificial intelligence, are laughably bad in head to head competitions against people. But they improve so quickly that they get as good, and then they get much, much better very, very quickly. So for example early in the career of Gary Kasparov as the world chess champion, he played 32 simultaneous matches against the world’s best chess computers of that time, I believe it was in the mid or late 1980’s. He won 32-0, he was just annihilating the digital competition. In 1997 Kasparov played a match against Deep Blue, which was a super computer built by IBM solely for the purpose of playing chess against him and he lost narrowly that match against Deep Blue in 1997. Nowadays though computer versus human chess is completely uninteresting because the computers are so much better. There was a computer chess programme available for small phones, that entered a tournament in Argentina where the entry requirements were so strict that only about 1,000 players around the world, human players, even qualified, the smart phone entered, out of ten matches it won nine of them, so it’s just totally uninteresting to play chess head to head against a computer. It’s so bad that they asked a grand master a couple of years ago how he would prepare for a match against a computer and he said ‘I’d bring a hammer’. So this head to head war we see over and over, but the digital competitor goes from laughably bad to unarguably superior much more quickly than we’d expect. What I find really interesting though is that that head to head competition is not the end of the story, because once you start allowing human and digital labour to come together and work as a team, you get an even additional bump in performance, over what you get from digital alone. So we now have freestyle chess tournaments where any combination of human and digital chess player can come together and what we learn is that fine, computer beats grand master, smart team easily beats computer and that smart team is not composed of grand masters, it doesn’t contain super computers, it consists of people who are pretty good chess players and pretty good with computers, with moderately powerful computers but what the people have understood is how to divide up the task between what people are good at, what machines are good at. When you get that task division right, again you can annihilate the competition. So the shift in our thinking needs to move from racing against machines, which is becoming a fools errand in more and more circumstances and needs to shift to racing with machines, which is where some really huge opportunities lie. We are adding more TV shows everyday. Look out for more about technological advancements on Connected Economy TV.
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