Limitations of Logic
When IBM successfully pitched its super computer ‘Deep Blue’ against the chess Grand Master Kasperov in May 1997, it revealed more than the huge advances in processing power it was designed to showcase.
A famous move, made at the end of the first game, or at the beginning of the second, depending on the version of events you prefer to believe, seemed to display what many interpreted as an inordinate display of an ‘artificial intelligence’ by the 1.27 tonne machine. Many, including the statistician Nate Silver in The Signal And The Noise credited Deep Blue’s human-like move, defending while ahead to prevent a counter-move by Kasperov, as decisive in the overall match victory.
Pitched against IBM’s creation, capable of 200,000,000 calculations every second, Kasperov had previously boasted that he would never lose to a machine. Such hubris allows for his portrayal, 17 years on, as a tragic hero in the eyes of the few remaining nostalgic luddites. In the context of this article, this match, a dramatic ‘man vs. machine’ confrontation, can be seen to reveal a great deal about our developing relationship with technology and the frailty of human intelligence as a victim of its own success. Perhaps rather tangentially, the interaction between Kasperov and Deep Blue teaches us about one of the most important aspects of Leadership as an enduring process of human social influence.
Man v Machine – Innovation is Exclusively Human?
A computer’s knowledge and so-called ‘thought process’ is easily broken down into its individual constituent parts. In its simplest form the code, which forms the basis on which programmes are written, seems unintelligent and logical in the extreme so as to appear ‘blind’ and unintuitive. That is in direct contrast to the way in which we characterise the human thought process.
Deep Blue’s famous move in the match arose when it chose, as a default option in a situation in which it could not fully comprehend, to move a random piece. Kasperov was flummoxed by such a move, which seemed to transcend the limitations of the machine’s coded script and engender something more akin to intelligent foresight.
Although there are those who contend the evidence, there is little to suggest that the machine had not operated automatically and without human intervention throughout the match. The situation in which it found itself led to what seemed to Kasperov to be ‘innovation’, despite the random move being a pre-programmed response.
While it is possible to identify the process behind a computer’s analytic process, Drew McDermott points out that at its most basic level human intelligence and innovation is little more than a series of electrical impulses across synapses in the brain that, individually, are unintelligent in a similar way to pieces of code.
If objectively studied in this way, both forms of intelligence seem equivalent. Despite this, there is a significant difference in the way in which both forms of intelligence interpret the world around them.
The Human Weakness
Irritating as it can be, trying to decipher those deformed CAPTCHA words on websites is a clear demonstration of what will continue to set man and machine apart for some time to come.Even the most powerful super computers lack the capacity for the complex conscious visual interpretation that we know as sight. Language, although allowing humans to communicate individual perceptions in a universally understandable way, effectively
conceals the fact that each of our brains’ interpretations is slightly different. It is perception that allows us to decode the oddly shaped letters we are confronted with which, far from being a passive form of thought, is actively shaped by human experience and culture.
Computers lack the capacity for both literal (ocular) sight and imaginative perception or vision. However, if the assertion that the unexpected move by Deep Blue was integral in Kasperov’s defeat is true, it was his capacity for imagination, interpreting the computer’s display as a very human form of innovation, that was decisive in his defeat.
The move is important in two ways if we accept the significance it has subsequently been bestowed. Kasperov’s loss proves that imagination, our greatest asset, can also be our greatest weakness. That move by the computer, almost resembling what we understand to be a uniquely human form of innovation informed by a conscious perception, inadvertently proves our greatest strength.
Innovation and Leadership
At Footdown we realise the merits of innovation in the workplace. Our online ‘iFootdown’ diagnostic, using the High Performance Workplace model alongside assessing Performance and Engagement, evaluates an organisation’s culture against Results, Structure, Collaboration and Innovation.
Innovation is both uniquely human and crucial to success in developing high performance teams in every market. It is also what should, ultimately, prevent the emergence of a dystopian ‘iRobot’ world in which artificial intelligence supersedes humanity, although that really is quite another matter.