A.I, Coaching and Chess

By Margaret

May 27
One of the best grand chess masters of all time is Garry Kasparov. Grand chess masters hone their skills with tens of thousands of hours of deliberate practice. They learn to “see” patterns and future move’s almost instantly. 

This practice is as important as chess is complex.  After 4 moves there are 288 billion positions that can arise!  Yep! However, unlike much of the natural world and interactions with other people it is a finite domain – despite the vast numbers, you can count all of the possible positions. I can’t count the possible outcomes of one short interaction with another human (or even a bunny rabbit for that manner) but I can count the possible moves in chess.

Given this finite complexity, computer scientists saw chess as the ultimate testing ground for “intelligent” machines. Could a computer beat a grand chess master? For years the answer was, “not even close”. Humans ruled hands down.

Then in 1996 the IBM supercomputer ‘Deep Blue’ and Kasparov duelled for 6 games. Kasparov won, but it was close. The next year they rematched and Deep Blue won. Since then it’s been one way traffic. Was this the Terminator turning point? The end of humans and the rise of machines?

Not quite. Kasparov had an insight – What about tournaments between humans paired with computers? Take a “good” chess player (not a grand master) and pair them with a super computer and what happens? they destroy everyone. Grand Masters, Deep Blue, the lot.

It’s yet another example of the power of AND. Human’s can strategise and “imagine” what might be a good move. The computer can run the numbers and tell you if it will be. It’s using the best of humans and machines.  

I share this as a story of hope and opportunity. Chess is complex but unlike most of the world we live in it is still a constrained and finite problem space.  Therefore, chess is a simple, not a wicked, problem to solve.  Even in this domain computers still don’t fully rule (I think they will soon). Funnily enough, thanks to human technologies just about all the worthwhile problems we as humans face are wicked (almost unendingly complex), not simple.

So the opportunity for most of the world, and certainly leadership development and coaching for quite some time is humans plus machines.  Let the human coaches and facilitators do what only they can do, such as, the deep insightful, caring and connecting work. Combine this with what computers can do well, such as connecting insights from vast databases, staying with people (in a pocket or on a wrist), and providing space for private reflection. We can vastly improve the accessibility and impact of leadership development, leading to a more conscious society that ironically will stay ahead of machines and AI for longer! Cyborg coaching?

We are at the start line and out of the blocks – what next ideas or future do you see to more effectively leverage human machine pairings?Carl
If you’d like to read some more from JumpShift, you might enjoy: 
Diversity in Counsel, Unity in Command
What Leadership Coaching is All About
The Development Triggers for Leaders
Blending Synchronous and Asynchronous Leadership Development Experiences

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