Continuing on the AI trend, here’s Steven Levy looking back at the time, 20 years ago, when another computer, IBM’s Deep Blue, beat a human at another game, chess:
The other was world champion chess player Garry Kasparov, whose concentration was intense enough to start a fire in a rainforest. His head hovered over the chessboard as if trying to identify which piece was threatening to betray him. His ankles shook. He was clearly under epic stress. Meanwhile, his putative opponent —a supercomputer housed elsewhere on the 35th floor of this midtown skyscraper — not only did not suffer stress, but did not even know what stress was.
In a 2009 interview with a chess publication, Illescas revealed that sometimes when Deep Blue instantly knew its next move, it would wait minutes before acting. When a chess computer stalls like this, it typically signals that the machine is having difficulty, or even has crashed. When Kasparov made his best move, the machine would play immediately, trying to give Kasparov the impression he had fallen into a trap. “This has a psychological impact as the machine becomes unpredictable, which was our main goal,” said Illescas.
By underplaying Deep Blue’s capabilities to Kasparov, IBM had tricked the human into underestimating it. A few days later, he described it this way: “Suddenly [Deep Blue] played like a god for one moment.” From that moment Kasparov had no idea what — or who — he was playing against. In what he described as “a fatalistic depression,” he played on, and wound up resigning the game.
For those keeping score at home, that’s two separate articles, in two separate decades, in which the best human player in the world at a complicated game compares a computer opponent to a god.