Garry Kasparov: At peace with AI

by ChessBase
2/23/2020 – Just under twenty-three years ago Garry Kasparov made history by losing a match against a computer named Deep Blue. Today smartphones are capable of running chess engines as powerful as IBM's giant mainframe in 1997. More significantly, thanks to recent progress in artificial intelligence, machines are learning and exploring the game for themselves. So what does the legendary World Champion think about the progress of AI in chess, and its effect on humanity in general? He told Wired Magazine that he has made his peace with AI.

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"Progress cannot be stopped"

Recently Garry Kasparov returned to the scene of his famous Deep Blue defeat—the ballroom of a New York hotel—for a debate with AI experts organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. He met with WIRED senior writer Will Knight there to discuss chess, AI, and a strategy for staying a step ahead of machines. The following are short excerpts from the interview entitled "Defeated Chess Champ Garry Kasparov Has Made Peace With AI," which is well worth reading in full. 

About losing to Deep Blue:

I’ve made my peace with it. 1997 was an unpleasant experience, but it helped me understand the future of human-machine collaboration. We thought we were unbeatable, at chess, Go, shogi. All these games, they have been gradually pushed to the side [by increasingly powerful AI programs. But it doesn't mean that life is over. We have to find out how we can turn it to our advantage.

The impact of AI?

Every technology destroys jobs before creating jobs. When these jobs start disappearing, we need new industries, we need to build foundations that will help. Maybe it’s universal basic income, but we need to create a financial cushion for those who are left behind. We have to look for opportunities to create jobs that will emphasize our strengths. Technology is the main reason why so many of us are still alive to complain about technology.

Assist a chess engine to make it stronger?

I can look at AlphaZero’s games and understand the potential weaknesses. I describe the human role as being shepherds. You just have to nudge the flock of intelligent algorithms. Just basically push them in one direction or another, and they will do the rest of the job.

On human-level AI

We are comfortable with machines making us faster and stronger, but smarter? It’s some sort of human fear. I don't believe in AGI [artificial general intelligence]. I don't believe that machines are capable of transferring knowledge from one open-ended system to another. So machines will be dominant in the closed systems, whether it's games, or any other world designed by humans. Let's say you accumulated knowledge in one game. Can it transfer this knowledge to another game, which might be similar but not the same? Humans can. With computers, in most cases you have to start from scratch.

On the ethics of AI

We know from history that progress cannot be stopped. So we have certain things we cannot prevent. Humans still have the monopoly on evil. The problem is not AI. The problem is humans using new technologies to harm other humans. AI is like a mirror, it amplifies both good and bad. It's a tool. And unfortunately we have enough political problems, both inside and outside the free world, that could be made much worse by the wrong use of AI.

AlphaZero’s style of play

Every computer player is now too strong for humans. It was a mistake to think that if we develop very powerful chess machines, the game would be dull, that there will be many draws, maneuvers, or a game will be 1,800, 1,900 moves and nobody can break through. AlphaZero is totally the opposite. For me it was complementary, because it played more like Kasparov than Karpov! It found that it could actually sacrifice material for aggressive action. It’s not creative, it just sees the pattern, the odds. But this actually makes chess more aggressive, more attractive. Magnus Carlsen has said that he studied AlphaZero games, and he discovered certain elements of the game, certain connections. He could have thought about a move, but never dared to actually consider it; now we all know it works.

Also read: Chess, a Drosophila of reasoning. by Garry Kaspaov in Science Magazine:

"Based on a generic game-playing algorithm, AlphaZero incorporates deep learning and other AI techniques like Monte Carlo tree search to play against itself to generate its own chess knowledge. Unlike top traditional programs like Stockfish and Fritz, which employ many preset evaluation functions as well as massive libraries of opening and endgame moves, AlphaZero starts out knowing only the rules of chess, with no embedded human strategies. In just a few hours, it plays more games against itself than have been recorded in human chess history. It teaches itself the best way to play, reevaluating such fundamental concepts as the relative values of the pieces. It quickly becomes strong enough to defeat the best chess-playing entities in the world.

I admit that I was pleased to see that AlphaZero had a dynamic, open style like my own. The conventional wisdom was that machines would approach perfection with endless dry maneuvering, usually leading to drawn games. But in my observation, AlphaZero prioritizes piece activity over material, preferring positions that to my eye looked risky and aggressive. Programs usually reflect priorities and prejudices of programmers, but because AlphaZero programs itself, I would say that its style reflects the truth. This superior understanding allowed it to outclass the world's top traditional program despite calculating far fewer positions per second."

If you are interested in the AI development in chess you may want to take a look at the ChessBase program package of Fritz 17. It contains an AlphaZero clone, engineered over the past year and tested by some of the best players in the world — all of whom expressed unmitigated delight over the ideas and improvements it came up with. Here are all the articles that have appeared on Fat Fritz.



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