The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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Cyborg chess-masters

Oh man this is interesting. Clive Thompson points to Garry Kasparov’s new essay about humans and computers in chess. Clive sets it up like this:

But this gave Kasparov a fascinating idea. What if, instead of playing against one another, a computer and a human played together—as part of a team?

And then he blockquotes Kasparov (emphasis mine):

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.

How cool is that? How pregnant with possibility?

Clive riffs on it some more and really zooms in on the process that supports human-machine interaction as the key variable. If you have a better process, you win.

Actually, I want to amend the word “interaction” above; that’s the standard way of talking about it, but I like Kasparov’s language of “teamwork” and “coaching” a lot better. How about that: from now on, think of devices and apps as your teammates—your collaborators. How does that change the way you think about them? How does that change your standards for them?

Also: While we’re on the subject of tools, Frank Chimero has a neat post about tools and ambiguity. Peep the silent counterpoint design elements. YES.


This is basically the most Quiet Babylonian thing I’ve ever read on Snarkmarket. In fact I am working on an idea about outsourced intelligence RIGHT NOW, that as of this moment is going to steal heavily from this post.

Hot on the heels of reading this, I came across Chris Suellentrop writing for Wired about how videogames are making players better at Football. Football!

P.P.S. this is exactly the kind of intelligence that Lyotard describes in The Postmodern Condition

Ha haha. I am a big fan of the evenly-spaced comments here. As if it’s a real-time narrative of this idea being digested in your brain. A+!

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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