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Man Vs Manmade

That the core of human’s very being lies in his formidable intellects is what has made him highly distinctive from the other forms of life on earth. It was with the advent of artificial intelligence 25 years ago that did a great credit to the mankind’s proud boast of being the thinking creature.

Sir Marvin Minsky was the technology-guru who for saw a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being-today know as ‘Computer’. But in these not so long 25 years (progress wise) with the inexorable march of technology and development computer has evolved through complexities and vicissitudes and now no longer remains a simple computing machine with the general intelligence.

And talking of today, as the news of IBM’s supercomputer DEEP BLUE beating the Chess Grandmaster Gary Kasparov flashes in the man-machine equation takes a more serious course. Like a child deemed brainy if he acquires skills ahead of his normal capabilities, this 2 million dollar silicon slave is now being hailed as the whiz-kid of technology.

Many a futurists after witnessing the game expressed that it’s not a question of man vs machine at all. There’s absolutely no conflict or any tug-of-war. Artificial Intelligence (AI) implies creating artificial apparatus that imitates human behaviour. And when it comes to storing data and information, machines may be better in terms of pure calculation. But opposing this observation some of the experts saddened by this triumph of machine over man insist that it isn't intelligence but memory. An intelligent machine is no different from an ordinary one.

The term ‘intelligent machine’ is populist jargon and this episode is all about a high-tech thingumajig biting the hands that crafted it. “Where’s the measure of degree in a computer’s mind”, they argue. Deep Blue which is the name given to a particular configuration of IBM’s popular UNIX based Rs.6000 family called the Rs.6000 SP, runs on a faster system employing 32 powers to super chips or P2SC nodes working in parallel and weighs 1.4 tonne. This supercomputer is capable of exploring 200,000,000 (two million) positions per second while the Big K’s brain contains about 50 billion neurons and he can only see 3 to 4 moves ahead.


In this information hungry age, the match held in a Manhattan auditorium attracted 74 million hits on the internet representing 4 million users from the 106 countries over nine days. During the final game, the site attracted 8.9 million hits which is a record in itself. Faced with impregnable defence and uninhibited attack from a computer endowed with awesome computing power, Kasparov showed human frailty as he cracked under pressure and resigned on the 19th move, losing the final game.

Many of the chess players felt that Deep Blue took on some human traits by making some mistakes and an exasperated Kasparov complained that the machine changed its playing style with each new game. His main grouse and something which many sharp eyed observers agreed was that he had to play with a handicap. The computer knew all his previous games and his style but he was not allowed access to the computer's games or style of play. In chess, knowledge of an opponent's game history is considered crucial. I personally assure you that if it starts to play competitive chess, put it in a fair contest and I will tear it to pieces, a shell-shocked Kasparov railed virtually accusing makers IBM of cheating and demanding rematch.

Was it one small move for Deep Blue, one great leap for machine kind or just another milestone in human intelligence. Most of the futurists believe that as far as Deep Blue’s victory is concerned, it’s a challenge for human intelligence and creativity. But at the same time, it’s a pat on the backs of programmers too, implying that programming has matured. It also means that hundred of programmers, hundreds of computer engineers and designers and hundreds of Kasparovs have worked together to beat one human Kasparov. So if the machine had lost, it would be a failure of programmers.


The triumph of contest billed as man vs machine is not that Deep Blue won and Gary Kasparov lost, the achievement is in demonstrating that powerful computers like Deep Blue can successfully tackle tough problems that required mind bending high speed analysis. And those who are preoccupied with the notion that it’s no good sign for a creator if his creation outsmarts him are perhaps oblivious to what this ingenious creation can do. Deep Blue may soon be used for medical research, air-traffic management, consumer preference analysis and even weather forecasting. Yet this is not all and such is IBM’s confidence that it now boats of making a higher sophisticated version of Deep Blue called DOB which will not only be capable of demonstrating a nuclear explosion on the screen (without making it actually take place) but also estimating its destructive as well as constructive potential with much accuracy too. And this would be what we never thought possible.

After examining the prosn ’n’ cons of this intelligence dispute the obloquy meted out to Deep Blue’s intelligence indeed stands hollow now. Engulfed with egotism, some humans have failed to understand the spirit of competence. Can we expect Car Lewis to run faster than a car. Or then could Einestein figure the square root of saw 18162370 faster than any cheap calculator. SO, if it’s any consolation to anybody, then try giving this a thought – Isn’t it a credit to a teacher if his student knows more than him.