Which skills do computers reward?

Gligoric, on the basis of his own experience, considered the optimal age of a chess player to be 33-36.  But today, with the appearance of powerful computers and the Internet, chess is rapidly growing younger.  There has been a revolutionary change, not only in the process of preparation, but also in chess thinking itself: now there is little sense in relying, as before, on general evaluations of the type ‘unclear’ or ‘with compensation’ – you have to think very concretely.  Instead of deep reflection and philosophising at the board, what has come to the forefront is the ability to calculate intensively and to maintain extreme concentration of thought throughout the game.  Computer programs help young talents to quickly acquire the necessary knowledge, since a tenacious young memory can store a great amount of information, and deficiencies in positional understanding are compensated by precise calculation and the ability to maintain the tension of the struggle.

That is from Gary Kasparov, who really does know.  It counters the usual belief that the rise of computers rewards broad human intuition, which the computer cannot so easily replicate.  But Kasparov sees the question more clearly.  It is not how humans and computers compete in chess, but rather how they can best cooperate.

Can it be true more generally that computers reward calculating ability more than general intuition?  Perhaps the Internet gets the young up to speed on the facts in a given area and then they race ahead on their superior speed and analytical abilities.  What can better teach these skills than a super-fast computer, noting that you can’t use the computer in all settings to replace the human.

I am reminded of my favorite dictum about academic co-authorship: the best co-authors are those with similar skills, not radically differing skills.  Let’s not also forget that it is similar countries which trade the most with each other, not radically differing countries.  So maybe the people who can best "trade" with computers are…er…people who are (relatively) like computers.

By the way, Kasparov just retired; he is 41 years old.


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