Chess Match Tests Limits of Computer 'Intelligence' Champ Garry Kasparov Takes on IBM's Deep Blue Tomorrow in Six-Game Contest

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In the realm of game-playing, computers and humanity are running neck-and-neck.

Computers are better at checkers. People hold the edge in bridge, Scrabble, and backgammon. And in chess, where the most artificial-intelligence work has been done, a computer has never beaten the reigning world champion in a full regulation match.

That is why tomorrow, when chess champion Garry Kasparov and IBM's Deep Blue computer meet in New York to play the first game of their six-game rematch, the world will be watching. The games computers play tell us not only about the state of artificial intelligence. They also reveal much about ourselves and the complexity of human intelligence. The message is a comforting one. Even though these machines are beginning to beat us at our own games, their "smarts" and mankind's intelligence are fundamentally different. Thus, the foreseeable future will not entail some apocalyptic vision of mankind versus machine. Overall, computers cannot match human wits. Instead, artificial intelligence will complement real intelligence. "I'm more and more impressed at how people work - that they can do what they do," says Paul Rosenbloom, an artificial-intelligence researcher at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "The more we understand about how they work ... the more amazing we think they are." Knowledge researchers are gaining from game-playing computers is being applied to a variety of fields, from calculating investment decisions to scheduling transit routes to war games. Dr. Rosenbloom's institute, for example, is working on computers that simulate the behavior of helicopter pilots for the Pentagon's simulated battles. The military needs the computerized "agents" because it doesn't have the resources to conduct real war games with tens of thousands of participants. At times, these computer "agents" have worked on par with the tactics of a third-world pilot; at other times, they've been incredibly stupid, as when the company commander returned to base alone after a mission, not realizing the need to bring back the rest of the team. That's the problem with artificial intelligence. It doesn't come with any built-in common sense. "One of the interesting things we've learned through artificial intelligence ... is that intelligence is very complicated," says Itiel Dror, a cognitive neuroscientist at Miami University of Ohio in Oxford. Despite 40 years of work in the field, scientists cannot agree on a definition of intelligence. Is IBM's Deep Blue chess computer intelligent? Its creators say no, calling it a "turbo-charged expert system" instead. …


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