Of all the people who know something about artificial intelligence, chess legend and human rights advocate Garry Kasparov is easily one of the foremost experts. After all, he played against AI more than 20 years ago, having both won and lost, and today offers a unique and surprising perspective on this growing sector of technology. Kasparov shared his insights, along with thoughts on the return of dictatorial regimes across the globe, with Carrie Seifer, VP and chief revenue officer at IBM’s Watson Content & IoT Platform, at our Sky suite at the Aria on Day 2 of CES 2019. It was a most cerebral conversation that had the packed room entranced.

Kasparov, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain but tasted life outside of it as a teenage boy thanks to his chess-playing prowess, immediately dispelled any notion that AI is inherently evil. “We should recognize that we have a very powerful tool to solve problems” that weren’t solvable before, Kasparov told Seifer. “AI isn’t moral or immoral—humans still have a monopoly on evil. And any new technology can be destructive.”

Interestingly, he admitted that as AI gets more intelligent, humanity may lose more control over it, and he described our role in managing that reality as akin to shepherding: “Our role isn’t to guide, but to be more like shepherds—leading the flocks of AI algorithms to more attractive pastures.” Despite that somewhat scary notion, he is a staunch opponent of regulation to limit AI’s potential. “If we try to regulate the industry now, it could be an infringement on its development. It’s still a baby.”

One change we might soon see is a name change for AI. As Ryan Detert of Influential noted in his Day One session here at the Aria, Kasparov argued that it should be called Augmented Intelligence (thus allowing the acronym to stand pat): “Artificial sounds alien, while augmented is more friendly,” helping to dispel dark notions of AI conjured by the Terminator or Matrix movies. (And this is from someone who took it hard when he was beaten by a machine in those famous chess matches in 1997.)

That said, it’s the collaboration between machines and humans that will make for the best future, Kasparov explained. “Optimization hinders innovation. It’s tempting for humans to set aside risky projects and just go with the immediate return” that AI can deliver, he said. “At same time humans have unique tools to go beyond the known, to recognize that taking a risk can be really rewarding. Because consider, what’s the risk of doing nothing? You end up with appeasement.

“It’s about critical thinking—which can be so exhausting,” summed up Kasparov. “You can lie in a thousand ways, but there’s only one way to tell the truth.”

Word.

 

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