Once again, a computer beat us at one of our own games but a part of this story deserves more attention. At the conclusion of the last great man vs. machine contest, Garry Kasparov stormed off the stage after losing a six game match to IBM’s lethal chess computer, Deep Blue. Kasparov behaved like a third grader who’d just been knocked out of an elementary school chess tournament. To be fair, up to that point Kasparov had not had much experience with losing. Below is a short excerpt of the post-match press conference, in which Garry painfully tries to convince the audience he kinda’, sorta’, didn’t really lose. It’s not pretty. [Old nerds like me will excitedly note the presence of Unix co-inventor and chess software guru Ken Thompson sitting with the Deep Blue team.]
This week we saw another epic human/computer challenge. Again silicon triumphed over carbon but this time around the human reaction was quite different. Here’s how the greatest Jeopardy player in history reacted to his loss:
And here’s what he had to say in his post-match press conference (from John Markoff’s excellent NY Times article):
“I had a great time and I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Mr. Jennings. “It’s not about the results; this is about being part of the future.”
In defeat, Ken Jennings was gracious and humble and he taught us all, especially our kids, a valuable lesson in sportsmanship. As I watched this fascinating contest, I was very proud of Ken’s performance, especially after the match was over.