The Current

Defeated by a computer, world chess champion Garry Kasparov embraces artificial intelligence

In the dawning world of artificial intelligence, who is the pawn and who is the king?
Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov sees a brighter future between humans and machines in his new book, Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. (Courtesy of HBG Canada )

Russian chess grandmaster and former world champion Garry Kasparov is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

But it is that battle, against a faceless opponent, that he will, perhaps, be best remembered for in 1997 when he was defeated by the IBM computer Deep Blue.

Kasparov was called a sore loser but tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti, "you can't stay on top for 20 years if you are not a sore loser."

"I blame myself for making these mistakes but also, you know, now 20 years later, I could see that certain mistakes were inevitable because I wasn't ready for a match — win or lose. For me, it was still very much a great social and scientific experiment."

A year earlier he won the epic battle against the machine, but it was this defeat that led Kasparov to reflect and write his book, Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins.

I always say, machines won't make us obsolete — our complacency might.- Garry Kasparov

Kasparov says playing against Deep Blue was a challenge because as a grandmaster he knew what to expect from his opponents.

"I used to watch their body language and look straight in their eyes to gauge their intentions and to measure their plans," he explains.

But with Deep Blue — literally a black box — he says you have no idea what to expect and the psychology that Kasparov says is an important element to the game is not there.

World chess champion Garry Kasparov rests his head in his hands during game six of the chess match as he was defeated by IBM supercomputer Deep Blue, May 11, 1997. (Peter Morgan/Reuters)

Kasparov tells Tremonti he's surprised that people are fearful of artificial intelligence replacing workers because he says that's just how progress works — the history of civilization shows machines replacing farm animals and manual labour.

"Every profession eventually should feel this pressure or else humanity will cease making progress," Kasparov says.

"Machines will take over more menial parts of cognition and that will help us to boost our creativity and curiosity … let's not forget about beauty and joy. So we can do a lot of things if we keep pushing the horizons."

He suggests as machines are getting smarter, humans are also smarter and sees the potential artificial intelligence can offer "to turn our grandest dreams into reality."

"I always say, machines won't make us obsolete — our complacency might."

Kasparov believes the future is a "human plus machine combination" — merging the brute force of calculation, machines and algorithms with human experience and strategic overview.

"Look, we have purpose. Machines don't have purpose. We have passion. So there are many things that could go together."

Kasparov hopes the fear of artificial intelligence will subside when people can see the potential it can create.

"I don't want people to be overwhelmed by these dystopian views promoted by great movies like The Terminator or The Matrix."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.