The man versus the machine

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 20, 2018

Grandmaster Garry Kasparov speaking at the Entrepreneurs' Organisation ZindaDilli2016 event in Delhi.

Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov tells entrepreneurs not to go overboard on big data

He may have once been beaten by IBM’s Deep Blue but Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov believes that the brute force of calculation of a machine still cannot match man when it comes to decision-making. Intuition plays as big a part in decision-making, says the man rated as the greatest chess player ever, and now a political dissenter who lives in exile away from Putin’s Russia.

In Delhi at the invitation of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation to address and motivate a 600-strong gathering of businesspersons, Kasparov, who boasts an IQ of 190, shared some tips on decision-making. Especially, when under time pressure.

“Chess is all black and white. Life, politics and business are not like that,” said the man who refuses to become a pawn in Vladimir Putin’s moves. But one dictum to follow from chess is to always look a few moves ahead and make a decision based on that. “But, sometimes, even in chess, it’s not wholly about chess moves – you have to consider psychological factors too. You need to combine apples and oranges and that’s where intuition comes in,” he said.

Frowning at the current practice of chasing Big Data, Kasparov said: “Big Data creates the illusion that you can find all the answers to your problems. But at one point you need to stop collecting data and start making decisions,” he said, stressing that it was important to control data and not get swamped by it.

Kasparov feels that today chess and business were becoming overly reliant on data and as a consequence risk averse. “The way chess is played is often a reflection of society and current cultural trends. I see chess being played with machine knowledge in a risk reducing way, in just the way people conduct education and business,” he said.

Asked if he had a message for entrepreneurs in a country that had just launched Start-up India, Kasparov said, “The world is full of opportunities. Today, the sky is the limit. But to grasp these opportunities you should be able to take huge risks.”

Pointing to his Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (he prefers this over an iPhone because of its large screen), Kasparov said the device may be killing creativity as everything is revealed on it. “I try and use it only for phone calls and communication. When everything is influenced by computers the ratio of risk and benefits is reduced,” he said, clearly placing a large emphasis on thinking on one’s own.

Scathing though he might have been about the influence of machines in our lives, Kasparov reserved his most devastating lines for politicians. Donald Trump he likened to cotton candy — at first sweet, with no nutritive value, and makes you feel sick at the end. As for Putin, he forecast there would be no peaceful end to his rule. “In chess you make predictable moves and get unpredictable results. In Putin’s Russia it’s the exact opposite,” he said.

Published on February 19, 2016

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