GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
And speaking of Stephanie Foo, she likes to take things literally. And I told her, I said Stephanie, don't be such a drag. You've been smoking the company line, you got to loosen up, come on, the rules are meant to be broken - it's time to rage against machine - lady rage, come on. Well, Stephanie - Stephanie promptly brought me a story about raging against a machine. The real machine and someone raging against it. Stephanie Foo, take it away.
STEPHANIE FOO, BYLINE: OK, yes. This story is about chess, but not just any chess game - one of the most famous ever.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov, the world's chess champions...
FOO: It's 1997 - world chess champion Garry Kasparov versus Deep Blue, a computer designed by IBM. And for people who wanted to believe that the human brain was still stronger than computers, this was a huge deal.
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MAURICE ASHLEY: This is international chess match, I'm Maurice Ashley. The future of humanity is one the line. Now the weather.
FOO: Now Kasparov has never lost a match - ever. He was destroying all the grandmasters at the age of 22. He's even beaten Deep Blue once before, so he is going into this rematch totally confident, and true enough - bam - Kasparov wins game one easy.
FOO: But then game two is where everything starts to go wrong. In this match, Deep Blue is dominating. Kasparov is visibly frustrated. He's is rubbing his face, sighing, and then abruptly Kasparov just walks off the stage and quits - forfeits the game. The night after the game, his fans analyze the match and figured something out - something Kasparov, an undefeated grandmaster should have seen. If he had not stormed off the stage and just played his normal game, he could've tied Deep Blue.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The match now stands at one game apiece.
FOO: Now, the match was best of five games, with Kasparov eventually losing the whole thing, but the turning point was when he forfeited that match. So since 1997, people have always speculated - what happened in game two? Did he quit because the computer was really so much smarter than he was? Then recently this book by Nate Silver came out called "The Signal And The Noise." In it Murray Campbell, one of the engineers who created Deep Blue and who was at the match, comes out and says that he thinks he knows what really happened, and he says it starts in the first game - the game Kasparov won.
MURRAY CAMPBELL: Near the end of game one Kasparov had reached a very strong position. It was clearly to any chess expert in the audience, that Deep Blue was going to lose in the long run.
FOO: But here's where it's interesting. At the end of the game Deep Blue did something weird - it committed suicide.
CAMPBELL: Deep Blue was calculating a particular move that it could make that would prolong the game as long as possible. And then at the last second, it switched to a completely different move and played it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Rook to D1.
CAMPBELL: And this particular move was really bad, and so it caused us to give up the game right away.
FOO: This really bad move confused Kasparov. Murray says he heard Kasparov's team stayed up that night trying to analyze the logic behind that move - what it meant. The only thing was - there was no logic.
CAMPBELL: The more obvious explanation is that there was a bug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Uh-oh.
FOO: A glitch - the kind of plot twist only a nerd could love.
CAMPBELL: Due to a bug in the program, unfortunately, it had played a random move.
FOO: But Kasparov didn't know that, and Murray guesses that Kasparov was so caught up thinking the machine do something that he didn't that he lost it, and the whole rest of the match was a landslide.
CAMPBELL: My theory is that Kasparov might have seen the drying opportunity but didn't, because he was overestimating Deep Blue's capability and assuming that it was incapable of making a mistake that would allow a draw. Deep Blue was very strong but wasn't that strong. And I don't know if this is true or not - I think we'll never know unless Kasparov says himself, but you probably won't get to talk to him because he doesn't like to talk about the subject.
FOO: Yeah, Kasparov spent suggesting that IBM cheated, and he hasn't really talked about the game for many years - until now.
MIG GREENGARD: You have to understand, he's a little frustrated talking about this stuff over and over again sometimes.
FOO: That's Mig Greengard. He's been Kasparov's aid, publicist and confidant for 14 years. And he's here to speak on Kasparov's behalf.
GREENGARD: He's authorized me to talk with you about it. I talked with Garry about it...
FOO: It being the glitch.
GREENGARD: ...And what he said to me - he said it's ridiculous that move had no impact on his subsequent play - and had no impact on him - that's it, move on. So that's all really that I can - that I can go with, is the horse's mouth.
FOO: So maybe Murray is wrong about the glitch but Mig says, he's not wrong about Kasparov having a sort of mental breakdown - it just happened a little later. Mig told me that Kasparov was used to playing with computers. He thought he had them all figured out. Kasparov had certain traps that he would set, lures for computers, and computers would always fall for them. So in game two, Kasparov set his trap and waited.
GREENGARD: Because he had these assumptions that of course being a computer, it's probably going to play this, this and this.
FOO: But it didn't - it didn't take the bait.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I see what you're up to.
GREENGARD: The played something else.
FOO: Something good.
GREENGARD: Something that not only is not the predicted computer move - but a very, very strong move.
FOO: So you're saying that this is the moment where basically he was psyched out.
GREENGARD: Right. It was just very - I think a very confusing, very disorienting experience to have to then sit down at the board not really knowing what you're facing. Can I still try to trick it? Does is still play like a computer? Does it make mistakes at all? So psychologically damaging to Garry in that he realized this was a whole new animal.
FOO: And then after that really awesome move, Deep Blue actually makes another bad move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: I guess I'll play this.
FOO: This bad move is the one that allows Kasparov to tie. But Kasparov is too convinced he's going to lose to see the fault.
GREENGARD: Like well, no way the computer would allow that - that can't be there. Whereas against a human you think why not, maybe he made a mistake in his calculations - I'll give it a shot. Against the computer you get - the computer gets the benefit of the doubt. How could something play like God, then play like an idiot in the same game?
FOO: In a way that's like a total machine mistake though, right? Because since the machine doesn't have a specific style or personality like, each different move that it makes could be brilliant and idiotic.
GREENGARD: Sure, sure - of course when he resigned he didn't know any of this - which itself was demoralizing and humiliating.
FOO: So essentially what Mig's saying is that Deep Blue wasn't necessarily as smart as we all thought. Deep Blue didn't have this magnificent triumph over Kasparov, it was more that Kasparov forced himself to fail.
GREENGARD: In actually turned out to be a bit of a red herring as far as artificial intelligence goes. It turned out it didn't have emulate human thought to beat the world champion. It didn't even have to play great chess, but it mostly revealed that humans aren't perfect - humans make mistakes. They certainly - it turned out to be less complicated than we'd hoped. Deep Blue could calculate 200 million possible moves per second, but it was Kasparov who is overthinking it.
WASHINGTON: Thanks so much to Mig and Murray for helping us out on that piece. And of course, you've got to check out the almighty Nate Silver's book "The Signal And The Noise." And yes, that piece was produced by Stephanie Foo. We've got issues against the machines today on SNAP. And when we return, the man tries to corrupt me with all the free food I can stuff into my mouth. And we're going to illegally destroy private property just because we can. On SNAP JUDGMENT the "Rage Against The Machine" episode continues. Rock on and stay tuned. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.