How Garry Kasparov Learned To Stop Worrying & Love The Machines That Beat Him At His Job

from the and-others'-jobs-as-well dept

There’s been an awful lot of talk these days about how the machines (and “AI”) are coming to take all of our jobs. While I’m definitely of the opinion that the coming changes are likely to be quite disruptive, many of the doom and gloom scenarios are overblown, in that they focus solely on what may be going away, rather than what may be gained. If there’s anyone out there who might be forgiven for worrying the most about computers “taking over,” it would be Garry Kasparov, the famed chess champion who took on the Deep Blue chess playing computer and lost back in 1997. However, in a new (possibly paywalled) WSJ piece, Kasparov more or less explains how, even now as AI is moving into all sorts of fields previously thought safe from automation, he’s come to embrace the possibilities, rather than fear the losses:

It is no secret that I hate losing, and I did not take [losing to Deep Blue] well. But losing to a computer wasn?t as harsh a blow to me as many at the time thought it was for humanity as a whole. The cover of Newsweek called the match ?The Brain?s Last Stand.? Those six games in 1997 gave a dark cast to the narrative of ?man versus machine? in the digital age, much as the legend of John Henry did for the era of steam and steel.

But it?s possible to draw a very different lesson from my encounter with Deep Blue. Twenty years later, after learning much more about the subject, I am convinced that we must stop seeing intelligent machines as our rivals. Disruptive as they may be, they are not a threat to humankind but a great boon, providing us with endless opportunities to extend our capabilities and improve our lives.

There’s a lot more in the essay, but basically Kasparov recognizes that there’s tremendous opportunity in looking at what smarter machines can actually do to help more and more people:

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 that 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.

And, towards the end, he notes that while there may not be easy answers, there are plenty of opportunities. While many people today insist that since they cannot think of what the new jobs will be, there can’t possibly be any, the reality is that just a few decades ago, you would probably not have been able to predict many of today’s internet/tech related jobs. And Kasparov is optimistic that freeing us up from more menial jobs may open up much greater opportunities for people to put their minds to work:

Compare what a child can do with an iPad in a few minutes to the knowledge and time it took to do basic tasks with a PC just a decade ago. These advances in digital tools mean that less training and retraining are required for those whose jobs are taken by robots. It is a virtuous cycle, freeing us from routine work and empowering us to use new technology productively and creatively.

Machines that replace physical labor have allowed us to focus more on what makes us human: our minds. Intelligent machines will continue that process, taking over the more menial aspects of cognition and elevating our mental lives toward creativity, curiosity, beauty and joy. These are what truly make us human, not any particular activity or skill like swinging a hammer?or even playing chess.

I am sure that some will dismiss this as a retread of techno-utopianism, but I think it’s important for people to be focusing on more broadly understanding these changes. That doesn’t mean ignoring or downplaying the disruption for those whose lives it will certainly impact, but so much of the discussion has felt like people throwing up their arms helplessly. There will be opportunities for new types of work, but part of that is having more people thinking through these possibilities and building new companies and services that recognize this future. Even if you can’t predict exactly what kinds of new jobs there will be (or even if you’re convinced that no new jobs will be coming), it’s at the very least a useful thought exercise to start thinking through some possibilities to better reflect where things are going, and Kasparov’s essay is a good start.

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Comments on “How Garry Kasparov Learned To Stop Worrying & Love The Machines That Beat Him At His Job”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It all depends on how optimistic you are. You can believe that the world will turn into a utopia, or you can believe that it will become a Matt Damon Elysium world.

How long that takes is up for debate, but I don’t believe in the future there will be many jobs. I also think at that point, the cost of production goes to zero. What humanity does with that is the question. Do you trust your fellow human?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There is still a need for humans to maintain the robots and there always seem to be another computer game and/or device with little productivity purpose beyond entertainment.

That said, it will be necessary to fight against the cost of production going to zero. There is a disturbing trend of seeing sweat shop labour and CEOs as equal in the current newspeak of “job-creation”. Also, protection of environment and consumer rights are being seen as wasteful parameters for the “competition state”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I feel a disturbance in the force

As if a thousand chess masters cried out and then where silenced..

Kasparov already made his money and what are we really displacing in chess masters like a thousand people on the whole planet.

I’m not at all clear that the 10’s of millions that will be displaced are going to have such a positive feeling, while they scrap by on the dole or more likely on the street.

AI isn’t a rival it’s a tool the problem is how it is used, it could be used to liberate people form drudgery and foolish decision making, but it won’t instead it will be used to dis-empower and oppress

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I feel a disturbance in the force

I have a hypothesis about what is to come and it is down to the same situation with the horse and buggy and the automobile. 100 years later, mosts horses are now in the fields with the majority being used for recreation. I am sure most are quite happy. The question is, what happened to all those other horses during that transition?
While possible, I don’t think the transition is going to good as most governments are too corrupted or short sighted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I feel a disturbance in the force

Presumably you don’t know how glue was made back in the day, also I hate the buggy whip analogy since there never where any, leather workers made many different products so if the market for buggy whips disappeared they where still making other things they where not just shut down and thrown out on the street, also the transition from buggy to car took decades(the first “car” being sold in the late 1800’s and true adoption didn’t happen until the 20’s

Anonymous Coward says:

But imagine the possibilities

AI and advanced automation bring a huge opportunity. Imagine a world where the chess masters play chess not for money, but for the love of playing chess.

The cost of everything drops to zero, because no human will need to be involved in producing it. There would be no shortage of anything.

People will be free to do what they enjoy, to do what they love. That is the upside.

Of course, it could go the other way, which would totally suck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But imagine the possibilities

Most people have to work today to get even the basics for surviving. That system is hard to change.

The cost of everything going to zero would mean wage going to zero since there will always be shortage of something, even if that something changes.

But as has been accepted sense today: Machines/robots/AIs are tools for now and the foreseable future. Thus, they aren’t good nor evil on their own.

Thinking about robots in utopian/dystopian terms is not really useful when todays reality doesn’t fit into it. As soon as real sentience exist in robots/AIs then we can start to worry, but we are not even approaching that level. AI can win in chess and checkers, but can’t even understand what its sensors find. And no, self-learning algorithms are not on its own a parameter since the algorith is static.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: But imagine the possibilities

“The cost of everything going to zero…” err the cost to manufacture, we are into an economy where the vast majority of cost are in capital, so if you assume that there will be magically jobs for all of those out of work truckers, fast food workers, accountants and doctors only a tiny number will be able to start companies that will require 10’s or 100’s of millions in capital to by the necessary equipment, none of those companies will require any of the skills they all spent years and years honing and will employ virtually no one, this is not a recipe for general prosperity and social well being

Mark Wing (user link) says:

IBM Watson is doing some incredible shit with AI. I saw a documentary where Watson sits on a board of cancer doctors and makes treatment recommendations sometimes better than the human doctors. Watson stays current on all the medical journals and reads all the research papers that overworked doctors are months/years behind on.

And we’re still at the beginning stages of AI. It’s an exciting time!

Anonymous Coward says:

Anyone that wants some history of where the thinking about AI come from

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom, by Adam Curtis

It’s wrong in several ways but it connects a lot of the political an sociological thought that has formed our current technological distopia, expert system, the rigid systematization of everything, crowd sourcing the lot

I won’t link but check youtub

Anonymous Coward says:

What this article doesn’t address and what I feel is the core question behind technology and AI is this: “To who will technology serve?” or “Qui Bono?”

If machines and AI are distributed and become that of a public good where people can make a living then I can see a bright future.

But however, if only the rich and connected own the means of these machines and the money locked off to the top echelon of society then we will be heading down the road to distopia.

But the one truth is this: there will be a smaller pool of jobs than what is available now and the people who cannot retrain themselves (college is expensive unless we adopt “College For All”) will be locked out of the market. All the low-end jobs will be replaced by machines and that’s just a fact and then the next question becomes “What to do with all these people?”

Many questions, few answers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Overpopulation

Sorry but this just is not true, while we may be overpopulating what is really creating these problems is the centralization of non physical resources(money) in to the hand of a very very very very few(less than 7000 people world wide) that now own most of everything and can extract from everyone else whatever they want because the state maintains police and military s for their convenience.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Overpopulation

The real problem is overcrowding.
US has a population of only ~300 million.
Technically there are enough resources for all those people to spread out.

When you get to African and S-E Asian numbers, THEN you can talk about overpopulation. Also US’s fertility is at its lowest ever and still going down.

Shirley Willett (profile) says:

The future and working with the hands.

I owned a high fashion manufacturing industry, and have received NSF grant awards in engineering design, which involved a lot of high tech. Some may remember me for arguing against copyrights in fashion design clothing at the copyright conference in Newport.
My background is a factory stitcher in the 1940s and 50s, and loved working with my hands – and taught many students and proteges to reach success by what their hands can do to design and make 3D fashion clothing. Some are very successful in small businesses manufacturing and selling direct to consumers in art shows, etc. They are successful in working with their hands, and they use much of recent technology. There is a future developing very slowly that needs help, and can balance with machine learning and humans who love working with their hands – in all industries. “High-Tech/High-Touch” said John Naisbett.
Thank you for listening.

Stephen says:

Missing the Point

Kasparov: “Machines that replace physical labor have allowed us to focus more on what makes us human: our minds.”

Kasparov is kidding himself. If machines can replace human physical labor then eventually they will also be capable of replacing human mental labor as well. The human brain is, after all, nothing more than a biological machine.

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