With his hand firmly pushed to his cheek and his eyes fixed on the table, Garry Kasparov cast one last dark glance at the chessboard before rushing out of the room: the chess king had just been beaten by a computer.
May 11, 1997 was a turning point in the human-machine relationship, when the Deep Blue Artificial Intelligence Supercomputer (AI) finally achieved what developers had promised for decades.
It was an “amazing” moment, artificial intelligence expert Philippe Rolet told AFP, even if the lasting technological impact wasn’t that great.
“Deep Blue’s victory made people realize that machines can be as strong as humans, even in their territory,” he said.
The developers at IBM, the U.S. company that made Deep Blue, were thrilled with the win, but quickly refocused on wider significance.
“This is not about man against machine. This is actually about how we humans use technology to solve difficult problems,” Deep Blue team boss Chung-Jen Tan said after the game, citing possible benefits from financial analysis to weather forecasts.
Even Chung would struggle to understand how AI has now become central – finding application in almost all areas of human existence.
“AI has exploded in the last 10 years or so,” UCLA computer science professor Richard Korf told AFP.
“Now we’re doing things that used to be impossible.”
‘One man broke’
After the defeat, Kasparov, who is still considered the greatest chess player of all time, was furious.
He hinted that there were unfair practices, denied that he had really lost, and concluded that nothing at all had been proven about the power of computers.
He explained that the match could be seen as “one man, the best player in the world, (who) broke under pressure”.
The computer was superior, he argued, because it had too many weak points. Today, the best computers will always beat even the strongest human chess players.
Machines with AI have mastered every game and now have much bigger worlds to conquer.
Corfu cites significant advances in face recognition that have helped make self-driving cars a reality.
Yann LeCun, head of artificial intelligence research at Meta / Facebook, told AFP that “absolutely incredible progress” had been made in recent years.
LeCun, one of the founders of modern artificial intelligence, cites among the achievements of today’s computers the ability to “translate any language into any language in a set of 200 languages” or “have one neural network that understands 100 languages.”
That is far from 1997, when Facebook did not even exist.
‘No danger’ machines
Experts agree that Kasparov’s match was important as a symbol, but left little in the way of technical legacy.
“There was nothing revolutionary about Deep Blue’s design,” Korf said, describing it as an evolution of methods that have existed since the 1950s.
“It was also a piece of dedicated hardware designed just for playing chess.”
Facebook, Google and other technology companies have pushed AI in various directions.
They have powered increasingly powerful AI machines with unimaginable amounts of their users ’data, relentlessly serving targeted content and advertising and counterfeiting trillions of dollars worth of companies in the process.
AI technology now helps decide on everything from room temperature to the cost of vehicle insurance.
Devices, from vacuum cleaners to doorbells, come with a range of sensors to supply AI data systems to better target consumers.
While critics lament the loss of privacy, enthusiasts believe that artificial intelligence products simply make life easier for everyone.
Despite his painful history with machines, Kasparov largely ignores the increasingly dominant position of artificial intelligence.
“There is simply no evidence that the machines are threatening us,” he told AFP last year. “The real danger doesn’t come from killer robots, but from humans – because humans still have a monopoly on evil.”
(Apart from the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)