My Conversation with Garry Kasparov

Yes, the Garry Kasparov, here is the link to the podcast and transcript.  We talked about AI, his new book Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins, why he has become more optimistic, how education will have to adjust to smart software, Russian history and Putin, his favorites in Russian and American literature, Tarkovsky, his favorite city to play chess in, his match against Deep Blue, Ken Rogoff, who are the three most likely challengers to Magnus Carlsen (ranked in order!) and who might win.  Here is one excerpt:

GK: The biggest problem, and I’ve been talking about for quite a while, that we’re still teaching very specific knowledge in the schools. Instead of teaching what, we have to teach how because this knowledge may be redundant 10 years from now. We are preparing kids for the world that will change dramatically. By the way, we already know it will look different. So what’s the point of trying to teach kids at age 10, 11, 12 without recognizing the fact that when they finish college, when they will become adults looking for jobs, the job market will be totally different?


COWEN: …If we look back on centuries of Russian history, do you think there’s something in Russian geography or demographics or geopolitics — what has it been that has led to such unfree outcomes fairly systematically?

Where do you find the roots of tyranny in the history of Russia? Is it a mix of the size of the country, its openness to invasion, its vulnerability, something about being next to a dynamic Europe, on the other side, China? What is it?

KASPAROV: It’s a long, if not endless, theoretical debate based on our interpretation of certain historical events. I’m not convinced with these arguments about some nations being predetermined in their development and alien to the concept of democracy and the rule of law.

The reason I’m quite comfortable with this denial . . . We can move from theory to practice. While we can talk about history and certain influence of historical events to modernity, we can look at the places like Korean Peninsula. The same nation, not even cousins but brothers and sisters, divided in 1950, so that’s, by historical standards, yesterday.


Let’s look at Russia and Ukraine, and let’s look, not at the whole Ukraine, but just at eastern Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine is populated mostly by ethnic Russians. In the former Soviet Union, the borders between republics were very nominal. People could move around, it was not a big deal. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the official state border between Russia and Ukraine was respected, but people still could move around. They didn’t need special visas.

When we look at ethnic Russians born and raised in Kursk and Belgorod on the Russian side and across the border, say in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk on the Ukrainian side, there were people that could be hardly separated anything. They read the same newspaper, Pravda, watched the same television, spoke the very same language, not even accents. But somehow, in 2014, after Putin’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, we saw a huge difference. Most of ethnic Russians in Ukraine signed for the Ukrainian army, fighting against Putin’s invasion, against the same Russians that came from the other side.

It could be a long debate, but I would say that one of the main reasons is that Ukraine experienced in 1994 a gradual transition of power from one president to another after sitting president Leonid Kravchuk lost elections and walked away. Ukrainians somehow got an idea that power is not sacred, and government can come and go, and they can remove it by voting.

And even despite the fact that Ukraine never experienced higher living standards than Russia, people realized that keeping this freedom, keeping this ability to influence their bureaucrats and government through the peaceful process of voting and, if necessary, striking, far more effective than Russia’s “stability” where the same leader could be in charge of the country with his corrupt clique for a long, long time.

On computer chess, I most enjoyed this part of the exchange:

KASPAROV: But I want to finish this because what we discovered in this process . . . I wouldn’t overweight our listeners with all these details. I don’t want just to throw on them the mass information.

COWEN: It’s amazing what people will enjoy, though. You’d be surprised.

Self-recommending!  We cover many other topics as well, again you can read or listen here.

And I strongly advise that you buy and read Garry’s wonderful new book Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins.


The link:

I quite liked this part

"I understand that today, people are concerned about self-driving cars, absolutely. But now let us imagine that there was a time, I’m sure, people were really concerned, they were scared stiff of autopilots. Now, I think if you tell them that autopilot’s not working in the plane, they will not fly because they understand that, in the big numbers, these decisions are still more qualitative.

While I understand also the fear of people who might be losing jobs, and they could see that machines are threatening their traditional livelihood, but at the same time, even these people whose jobs are on chopping block of automation, they also depend on the new wave of technology to generate economic growth and to create sustainable new jobs."

And if you think that airplane travel is even remotely comparable to auto travel, I submit that you are a massive dope.

But hey, what is economics other than making really bad analogies?

Not much. Inventing new terms for things, I suppose.

Thank you. Analogies let people believe that they understand a concept when they don't. One of the worst is the home finance/government finance analogy.

Analogies hide the differences between concepts. Bad analogies hide more differences.

that is sad, that Tyler is Kasparov fun.

For my liking I would talk on Kasparov pet idea, that chess increases intelligence :)
There is no evidence that any mental games permanently increase intelligence, and btw the whole education is about giving knowledge (structured knowledge which one can apply later in life ) - but knowledge on 'how' is non existent. Ability to think is very near intelligence and I'm in Bryan Caplan camp thinking that intelligence is what is not possible to teach, or at least no one knows how to.

There is explanation though for these funny pet ideas. Marx hinted on possibility to teach intelligence and in Russia there were marxists which 'developed idea further' and Kasparov and the likes absorbed that without thinking twice.

Of cause it would be more useful if someone could 'teach' Kasparov some basic facts about education. That will not change much but he would stop spreading strange and unproductive ideas.

Sala, G., Gobet, F., "Do the Benefits of Chess Instruction Transfer to Academic and Cognitive Skills? A Meta-Analysis", Educational Research Review (2016), doi: 10.1016/j.edurev.2016.02.002. (“The results of the current meta-analysis suggest that chess instruction improves children’s mathematical, reading, and cognitive skills moderately “)

ok, but still that is somewhat different story. that teaching chess can overcome current usa educational process deficiencies. what if the same could be applied with approaches in other countries already achieving high math proficiency?

as for intelligence, an anecdotal test on young Kasparov by spiegel team produced high, but not very impressive IQ results, he got two normalized tests one gave IQ 123 and another one IQ 135

and as iq test measure at least something related to intelligence - it is possible to conclude - that even hard training in chess does not make a person exceptionally intelligent

that Speigel article ( in German )

"""""government can come and go, and they can remove it by voting."""

But twice they removed it by overthrowing it with the help of foreigners. 2004/2014

Mr. Kasparov was a proponent of the, uh, controversial Fomenko New Chronology in which most historical dates are off by a thousand years.

So he must have access to some Alternative Universe history of Ukraine over the last few years in which his side didn't use violence to overthrow an elected government.

> Ukrainian army, fighting against Putin’s invasion

The guys has lost it. Too much listening to Mr. Poroshenko speeches.

By the way, having checked, Ken Rogoff once reached #40 in the world, in 1976, and he was in the top one hundred for a few years running.

And why would the green line indicating an actual Prof. Cowen post be missing?

Checking out the common commenter experience, or a really basic lack in screening commenter names?

Instead of investigating what is going on, maybe somebody could be fired - it seems all the rage these days.

You know what that's like.

" Instead of teaching what, we have to teach how because this knowledge may be redundant 10 years from now."

I don't know where he picked this up, but it sounds like standard educationist "Don't learn anything, just learn how to learn" (or how to learn how to learn how to learn?).

The specifics of how to use some publisher's productivity software likely will become obsolete, but few other things will. Newton's physics was superceded by Einstein's, but Newton works just fine for everyday problems where we're not dealing with black holes or velocities approaching 'c'. Algebra, statistics, calculus: software for working with these will change, but the math itself will not.

Most of history isn't going anywhere (even if it does get another year added to it every year). It's unlikely that text-to-speech, or speech-to-text, will replace the usefulness of knowing how to read and write. Languages will change (as always), but probably not so much that you'll need to re-learn the ones you already know. And the soft stuff: interpersonal skills, sports, etc., will change but probably not radically.

Really, "learning to learn how to learn" fails because basic knowledge just doesn't change all that rapidly, and how can one think if one has nothing to think about?

And even many basic technologies don't change that much, although perception is that they do because we notice the ones that are. A century after Ford's Model T cars are still mostly powered by internal combustion engines. A mechanic from 1920 would be puzzled by hybrid drivetrains and electronic controls and certainly by driver infotainment and contemporary safety features, yet the changes in road vehicles from 1817 to 1917 were surely far larger than those from 1917 to present. An electrician from a century ago would be puzzled by GFCIs and IOT gadgets (and perhaps wonder why your LED bulbs don't get hot), but would have little difficulty understanding the wiring in your house (for the basics, and basic principles, of electric power have not changed). A refrigeration tech from 1917 would would understand how your refrigerators and air conditioners work for the same reason, even if their electronic controls remained a mystery.

So, by all means teach the methods as well as the findings of science, but, when it comes to the basics at least, don't worry too much that that "this knowledge may be redundant 10 years from now" because it won't.

from where that notion goes?

in the west it's a division between direct instruction vs constructivist learning. constructivist education has some merits: people exhibit more creativity during adult life, still, on average, they know less and sometimes being unable to get to useful knowledge ( because of 'complexity of knowledge acquisition' ) that leads to some worse outcomes in real situations. And then even constructivist educators tend to pretend that they teach already existing structured knowledge, just in a more acceptable and humane way for children, they do not pretend to teach intelligence 'an ability to reason'

but in russia it is more convoluted: marxists educators developed idea, that man can be taught to 'reason better' ( i.e. that by education it is possible to visibly change intellect of a person ) and Kasparov is adept of this very idea, that chess teaches intelligence, that it is possible to rise intelligence with some forms of education.

and that is just untrue. While long process of education itself can raise intelligence somewhat - but there are no ways to directly affect level of intelligence of a person via some special educational approaches.

I can only congratulate Tyler for helping disseminate old marxist heresies hidden in 'nice talk'

Knowledge/science does not advances that fast true. Education advances even slower than knowledge, also true.

Some of my attention of school went into learning cursives and Roman numerals.

I guess the machines came for Gary Kasparov a decade or two before they came for the rest of us, so it makes sense he would become an expert on the issue...

Thank you Tyler for creating this series, it is far and away the best podcast series on the web. I look forward to every one, and listen to each at least twice, the best of them four or five times.


His podcast is not so frequently updated but it always features great guests and Tyler is always well-prepared for the interview.

I especially enjoyed: Patrick Collison, Pinker, Joseph Henrich, and Ezra Klein.

Comments on education seem off, especially as applied to 10-12 year olds. Reading, writing, arithmetic, history will not change in 10 years. Also, one can "learn how to learn" by practice, i.e., by learning. Actually, almost all of K-12 education and quite a bit of undergraduate and even early graduate education is timeless: reading, writing, and literature; basic and advanced mathematics; hard science; history. Studying all but the last *is* how we learn to learn. Studying history in K-12 is important for societal reasons.

For those who like the integration between chess and AI, and who are concerned about potential for AI control over future cultures via coercive though reform processes.

The concept made concrete in a manner usable for "repeated games": (navigating to my blog leads there).

Summers and Henderson's gatekeepers are extremely zealous to ensure civility when mentioning that one of those two individuals has partisan bias which prevents from taking him seriously on any matter with partisan dimensions, in particular related to the past president.

My blog has been blocked since the day after I wrote about that interaction.

Annnyyyyways. Interesting context of computers beating humans. If you worry that AI could brainwash everyone, this is a concise theoretical illustration of the HOW.

"Just recently they had a president impeached and tried, and the CEO of the biggest corporation also being charged with crimes."
Brazil impeached its president last year and jails a very important person every day. Yet, no ones cares.

GK's argument on education is superficial and clichéd and I'm surprised you picked it out. It's been convincingly refuted many times, see for example ED Hirsch, or Dan Willingham. In short, you don't get to the how without the what.

1. I don't think any fully automated supermarkets in Japan yet but Lawsons, a convenience store, will have ten mostly automated stores from 2018. The supermarket Aeon had half of the registers run by people and half are self-checkout when I was last there in 2013 . Maybe by now self-checkout is over 50-50.

2. Kasparov: " Human chess is a form of psychological warfare. It includes a psychological element because you should know how to play a game against a very specific opponent. Not very often, but sometimes, you may look for certain moves that may not be the best, purely from chess point of view, but they could create situation at chessboard that might push your opponent off balance. With machine, it’s totally different. The humans are facing an opponent that is not vulnerable to any psychological pressure and, moreover, an opponent that doesn’t care about what’s happened one move ago."

But playing against a computer should be the same as playing against a new player who's strategy isn't known. I sense a pro-carbon-based bias here.

I think he is implying there is a serial correlation in the quality of human moves, but not computer moves, at least for significant moves. Is there evidence for this? Should be easy to analyze with Stockfish...

"Most of ethnic Russians in Ukraine signed for the Ukrainian army, fighting against Putin’s invasion"

That's a bold-faced lie.

What I found interesting was how he described machine to machine games. It seems that the limits of the computers end up leading to what is a human characteristic; make a mistake.

Apply that to the complexity of driving an automobile. Accidents are mistakes; the human driver has a limit to their attention and skill, and if the situation arises that is outside of their capabilities, an accident happens. We get insurance to cover the liability for our mistakes.

An AI vehicle would be safer than most human drivers but there will be situations where their mistake will cause an accident. Who is liable?

It seems like generally Tyler and Gary conceded that Magnus Carlsen (or anyone) could not beat the most powerful chess engine today. Gary then mentioned that humans more or less make mistakes and get tired/distracted whereas a computer is more or less 100%, absent the 500 move 7 piece end game they discussed.

So here's my thought - computers can brute force humans at chess, but are computers more efficient than a human brain? Does anyone have an idea of the magnitude of power consumption of a chess computer over the course of a match? If we took a human caloric burn during a 4-6 hour (?) match and converted it to joules, could you run the computer on less joules for it to come up with the winning moves?

I'm really curious about that, maybe computers are already an order of magnitude lower on power consumption but maybe not. In that regard I wonder if humans will always be more "efficient" chess players.

One of the worst conversations. Wasted one hour listening. Better luck next time:

Kasparov hardly had anything interesting to say. When it got interesting, he said that he does not want to get into details because listeners will not like it. What a condescending attitude.

He seems to live in a bubble of his own making. For instance:
* He states that Taiwan is more dynamic than mainland China. Where has he been the last 20 years?
* He states that most ethnic Russians in Ukraine would fight for Ukraine. In that case, there would be no power struggle in Kiev.

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