Speaker says man still better than machine

by David Hyland

When chess-playing computer Deep Blue II beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in October 1997, analysts hailed it as a broader victory of machine over man.
But the computer’s co-creator told 70 people at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science building Thursday not to dismiss the superiority of the human mind.
Humans are still more nimble thinkers than their mechanical counterparts, said Murry Campbell, a research scientist at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in New York.
Using overhead projectors and video clippings, he lectured about the history of computer chess and his experiences building Deep Blue.
Relaying the nervous anticipation of watching the Kasparov match, Campbell said it was akin to being a parent at a kid’s sporting event.
“You’ve told your child everything you can, and now they’re on their own and they’re out there in the world,” Campbell said.
Against Kasparov, Deep Blue relied on a supercomputer that had the power of 30 separate computers working together. As a result, it could evaluate 200 million chess positions per second.
University computer experts said the match was a defining point in the fast-emerging technology field. While introducing Campbell, Institute of Technology official Avram Bar-Cohen said the evolution of computer technology will be broken into pre- and post-Deep Blue eras.
Campbell, 40, is no stranger to chess. He played in high school and was a chess champion in Alberta, Canada, 20 years ago before he became infatuated with computers.
“I always had an interest in both. I had always been thinking on working on chess programs,” Campbell said.
Campbell fused his interests in chess and computers at Carnegie-Mellon University where he built a chess computer called Deep Thought. In 1989, IBM hired him to continue his work with five others.
Computer science professor Maria Gini said games have always been an important aspect in teaching computers to think.
“Even a simple game, it’s the kind of thing that requires intelligence to solve,” Gini said.
Campbell said Deep Blue’s victory was a significant event which opened many people’s eyes.
“It’s a sign to a lot of people that computers are now reaching the point that they’re capable of tackling some really interesting problems,” he said.
Although computers have been used for weather forecasting and other tasks, Campbell said people’s improved understanding of computer programming could help in a number of areas, like mapping out drug sequences.
Gini credited Campbell with bringing much-needed attention and the possibility for more grant money to the artificial intelligence field.