It’s May 1997, and World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov has just been defeated in the match of the century. His opponent? Deep Blue, a supercomputer developed by IBM. For many, the match represents a pivotal existential shift: a new world order dominated by machines.
But is it necessarily a zero-sum game? In 2005, Playchess.com hosted a freestyle chess tournament which permitted human-computer partnerships. The initial results seemed to confirm predictions: grandmasters aided even by relatively weak computers were able to defeat supercomputer adversaries. The outcome of the final match, however, was so unexpected that many debated its validity. It wasn’t some grandmaster-supercomputer dream pairing that emerged victorious, but ZackS — a wild-card team comprised of two modestly-rated amateurs and three laptops. By successfully working with and “coaching” their computers to explore and analyze positions, the two were able to surpass both superior chess skill and more powerful computing capabilities.
What this means is that the man-versus-machine framework is intrinsically flawed: the strongest processes, the most beautiful solutions, emerge when humans and computers collaborate.
So, yes, AI will have a hand in our future — and that could be a good thing. Intelligent automation can radically bolster productivity, quality, and accuracy; it also addresses something Henry Ford famously lamented: “Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?” Humankind’s greatest natural resources — creativity, abstract thinking, insatiable innovativeness — often go to waste in the face of menial, time-consuming tasks. Automating these activities can reshape human labor into something more meaningful, empowering workers to redirect their brainpower to higher-value, more stimulating objectives: advancing mission, enhancing customer service, and beyond.