Sunday, November 24, 2013

Computers make humans better

The Wall Street Journal[sub] has an example from chess. In 1997, a computer (using what today we’d consider antiquated technology) defeated the world’s best chess player, forever dooming humans to second-class status, right?

But players have learned from computers that some kinds of chess positions are playable, or even advantageous, even though they might violate general principles. Having seen how machines go about attacking and especially defending, humans have become emboldened to try the same ideas.

There are twice as many chess grandmasters now than in 1997, and more than 50 people who can play at or above the level of the 1970s champion Bobby Fischer. Why? Because, people are using computers to stretch their skills higher than before.

This same principle is being repeated in every domain. If it’s something people enjoy, computers are making us better, not irrelevant.