Improving Our Decision-Making with Freestyle Chess

We are developing the idea of a Freestyle Chess Tournament as way to explore Garry Kasparov’s ideas of using the decision-making process of chess as a model for understanding and improving our decision-making everywhere else and how we have discarded innovation and creativity in exchange for a steady supply of marketable products. This Freestyle Chess Tournament will be cross-promoted with The Million Jobs Drive and will be featured in a documentary addressing inequity called I Could Be…:

How did America—a country dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal—become one of the most unequal countries on the planet?

One of major points that we will be making in the documentary is that the lack of diversity in both STEM and Chess involves basically the same underlying dynamics. This is suggested by the article, “More Girls in STEM Needs Community Involvement:”

Geniuses are made, not born! What was true with the Polgar sisters and chess is undoubtingly true for STEM and girls in general.

Research has shown that diversity has the potential to drive innovation:

We refer to companies whose leaders exhibit at least three inherent and three acquired diversity traits as having two-dimensional diversity.

By correlating diversity in leadership with market outcomes as reported by respondents, we learned that companies with 2-D diversity out-innovate and out-perform others.

In a book review of Diego Rasskin-Gutman’s Chess Metaphors: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind, Garry Kasparov wrote about freestyle chess:

In 2005, the online chess-playing site Playchess.com hosted what it called a “freestyle” chess tournament in which anyone could compete in teams with other players or computers….

Lured by the substantial prize money, several groups of strong grandmasters working with several computers at the same time entered the competition. At first, the results seemed predictable. The teams of human plus machine dominated even the strongest computers. The chess machine Hydra, which is a chess-specific supercomputer like Deep Blue, was no match for a strong human player using a relatively weak laptop. Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer was overwhelming.

The surprise came at the conclusion of the event. The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and “coaching” their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants. Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.

In a lecture, Walter Isaacson also talked about the power of the partnership between humans and technology:

[T]this type of artificial intelligence [where computers are not only smarter than humans but can also design themselves to be even supersmarter] may take a few more generations or even centuries. We can leave that debate to the futurists. Indeed, depending on your definition of consciousness, it may never happen. We can leave that debate to the philosophers and theologians.

There is, however, another possibility: that the partnership between humans and technology will always be more powerful than purely artificial intelligence. Call it the Ada Lovelace approach. Machines would not replace humans, she felt, but instead become their collaborators. What humans –and humanists – would bring to this relationship, she said, was originality and creativity.

The past fifty years have shown that this strategy of combining computer and human capabilities has been far more fruitful than the pursuit of machines that could think on their own.

I have recently taught a computer gaming class at Larchmont Library. As a next step, we are working on developing a class that combines chess and computer programming. It will most likely be based on the Chessforeva Unity3d chess project.

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