Garry Kasparov, chess Grandmaster, and arguably the greatest chess player of all time, enthusiastically discussed human potential when augmented by machines during a TED Talk earlier this year. During his talk, he encourages us to shed our fears of machines for the goal of attaining continuous progress. Kasparov experienced this transformational journey first hand when he lost a monumental chess match to IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer in 1997. As Kasparov explains, for some among us, this was the beginning of the end. But for him, it opened the door to possibilities he couldn’t have imagined before. Below we discuss 3 key insights from this inspirational talk.

 

The Humans vs. Machine Rhetoric Is Old News

From mythical stories in the 19th century to today’s Sci-Fi, we are continually pitting humans and machines against each other. The rise of one inevitably results in the fall of the other. And, as a result, we seldom embrace the narrative of humans and machines being stronger together. This may be conducive to action-filled Hollywood movies but, as technology advances, doesn’t lend very well to human prosperity.

 

We Must Face Our Fears

Kasparov explains that he experienced the fear of being replaced by technology when he lost his first chess match to Deep Blue. Following the match, doomsayers began touting the end of chess, affirming that no one would ever play again. To his delight, what Kasparov witnessed instead was a marvelous progression of the game. Humans began teaming up with computers during games and now, twenty years later, more people are playing than ever before.

Interestingly, Kasparov observed that “a weak human player plus a machine plus a better process is superior to a very powerful machine alone. But, more remarkably, is superior to a strong human player plus a machine and an inferior process.” In other words, developing a strong process and an effective way of interacting with and training machines can create a surprisingly strong output.

Take Away: As Kasparov explains, there are very few instances where the human body or mind can realistically compete with machines on equal terms. However, when we create an effective and well thought out partnership between machine and human, the results are stronger than either could achieve alone.

 

“We must face our fears if we want to get the most out of our technology and we must conquer those fears if we want to get the best out of our humanity.” – Garry Kasparov

 

When Machines Win, We Win

With technology proliferating at an increasingly astonishing pace we often forget that humans are the progenitors. And, therefore, a technological triumph is really a human triumph. Kasparov affirms that we shouldn’t worry about what machines can do today, instead, we should consider what they cannot do because the path to achieving our greatest aspirations is through technology. In short, he states “if we fail [to reach our dreams], it’s because we grew complacent and limited our ambitions”.

Take Away: We should continue to strive for greatness through empowering machines. In doing so, we are empowering humanity.

 

Among many doomsayers that have derided technological progress since the 19th century, Kasparov presents a refreshing perspective. He touts a partnership between humans and machines where we draw on each other’s strengths to achieve greatness. Inevitably every profession will feel the pressure of machines, it is our responsibility to ensure we’re augmenting humans through adequate training instead of replacing them. As Kasparov states, “machines have objectivity, we have passion.”

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