Recently IBM’s Watson beat human opponent on the game show Jeopardy, in a tour de force of natural language parsing and search. As someone who lost another high profile battle against one of IBM’s thinking machines, the best chess player in existence and in history Garry Kasparov had a few fair comments on Watson. Essentially, Kasparov sees the situation in context: Watson contains some powerful technology harnessed to win a game show.
Like Kasparov’s famous loss to Deep Blue in 1997 the matchup at best a signpost of technology, at worst a pointless, stage-managed PR stunt. After the win in 1997, the Deep Blue team leader spoke of benefits that would accrue to “school children… businesses [and] Kasparov” but I haven’t seen any ways dedicated chess hardware, encyclopedic opening books, and cyclopean endgame databases have resulted in wider positive changes.