Grandmasters and Global Growth
Kenneth Rogoff
(Kenneth Rogoff is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University and co-author of This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.)

CAMBRIDGE – As the global economy limps out of the last decade and enters a new one in 2010, what will be the next big driver of global growth? Here’s betting that the “teens” is a decade in which artificial intelligence hits escape velocity, and starts to have an economic impact on par with the emergence of India and China.

Admittedly, my perspective is heavily colored by events in the world of chess, a game I once played at a professional level and still follow from a distance. Though special, computer chess nevertheless offers both a window into silicon evolution and a barometer of how people might adapt to it.

A little bit of history might help. In 1996 and 1997, World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov played a pair of matches against an IBM computer named “Deep Blue.” At the time, Kasparov dominated world chess, in the same way that Tiger Woods – at least until recently – has dominated golf. In the 1996 match, Deep Blue stunned the champion by beating him in the first game. But Kasparov quickly adjusted to exploit the computer’s weakness in long-term strategic planning, where his judgment and intuition seemed to trump the computer’s mechanical counting.

Unfortunately, the supremely confident Kasparov did not take Deep Blue seriously enough in the 1997 rematch. Deep Blue shocked the champion, winning the match 3.5 to 2.5. Many commentators have labeled Deep Blue’s triumph one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

Perhaps Kasparov would have won the rematch had it continued to a full 24 games (then the standard length of world championship matches). But, over the next few years, even as humans learned from computers, computers improved at a far faster pace.

With ever more powerful processors, silicon chess players developed the ability to calculate so far ahead that the distinction between short-term tactical calculations and long-term strategic planning became blurred. At the same time, computer programs began to exploit huge databases of games between grandmaster (the highest title in chess), using results from the human games to extrapolate what moves have the highest chances of success. Soon, it became clear that even the best human chess players would have little chance to do better than an occasional draw.

Here is the full article.

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