Grandmasters and Global Growth

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.