The Brains Last Stand

In 1950 a famous engineer, Claude Shannon, wrote a paper called “How to Programme a Computer to Play Chess”. This paper contained what is nowadays referred to as Shannon’s number, and came up with the estimate that a normal game of chess can have 10120 different outcomes. From these conditions, it is quite remarkable how professional players time after time can break down different positions and play, what is considered by computers, the strongest moves. In this, one can perhaps understand the beauty of chess – it’s the simplest of games with almost infinite possible outcomes. Chess relies on calculated strategic moves, but there is not always any theory to rely on, and sometimes all you need is a slight better intuition than your opponent. The game of chess is so much more than just a game, and was forever changed 11th of May 1997.

In the late 90’s, there were a lot of strong Chess players. Anatoly Karpov, Jan Timman, Vassily Ivanchuk, together with a few others made out the absolute top of all players. Although these players were highly intelligent and strong, there was one player standing above the herd – his name is Garry Kasparov. Kasparov was the pinnacle of chess, and has evolved the game of chess into the beauty of strategic composing that underlies many chess theories nowadays. Competitors feared Kasparov’s strong and aggressive playstyle, his ability to evaluate complex situations and excessive mind – only a few reasons to why he was world champion for over two decades. Upon the time of 1990, no computer had ever stood a chance when playing against Grandmasters like Kasparov, and at the time a software company called IBM, introduced a new project that they had been working on for a couple of years – building a strong chess computer. 10th of February 1996, Garry Kasparov was challenged to a match that later would be recognized as “Man vs Machine”. In a fashionable manner, Kasparov won against Deep Blue with 4-2 in matches. At this point in time, Kasparov had no idea that he later would lose against the same, but slightly more advanced computer. 11th of May 1997 was the day that a machine for the first time ever would conqueror mankind – and this match is referred to “The Brains Last Stand”. The second match ended up with the result 3,5 – 2,5 in favour of Deep Blue. The game of chess has somewhat always been referred to a measurement of intelligence. And to some extent, mankind officially was less intelligent than computers after the devastating loss in 1997.

But are computers really intelligent, or are they just smart at exactly what they do? This subject is well discussed, and Garry Kasparov himself pointed out the fact that we humans shouldn’t be intimidated by computers – instead we should be thankful to have such powerful technology that can help us with different tasks. Computers are better than humans in playing chess, downloading data, doing maths – you name it. Nevertheless, without any intelligent people behind the computers – they are useless (at least until this day). Gary Kasparov finished his Ted talk back in 2017 saying: “We must face our fears if we want to get the most out of our technology, and we must conqueror those fears if we want to get the best out of our humanity”.

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