Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Russia's Grandest Master

Chanced upon this recent interview by the World Policy Journal with Kasparov with a really interesting title: Russia's Grandest Master. It's a really long interview and to be honest there is not much chess in it. But he does talk a lot about the benefits of chess and how it can help educate the world. Certainly more credible than some of the things that has been peddled around the chess blogosphere as original ideas, which are most likely not. 

But I think that it shows clearly that despite being a world champion, he is not only good at one thing. He demonstrates very broad knowledge and this, coupled with his ability to think very deeply is an uncanny combination and is a force to be reckoned with in any field.

Here are some examples from the interview:
GARRY KASPAROV: Let’s start with chess as a bonding mechanism. It has its universal values, and it’s quite a unique game. It’s a game that fits the Internet era, because you can play it online. You can follow the game’s great players, and you can analyze it through computer engines, which is very helpful for amateurs. To some extent, there is no longer a cloak of secrecy covering the game. You may have two of the world’s greatest players competing, and any amateur can immediately see the blunder. It’s very different from when I started.

It is no longer the old-fashioned game, when two big champions play the game and one is smoking a cigar while the other one is drinking coffee, and they look at the board, and it takes ages to make a move. Every move is like an enigma for those who do not belong to this temple of ultimate chess truths. Now they just look at the computer screen, push a button, move the mouse, touch the screen, and the machine can give you quite an objective evaluation. If it’s a bad move, the machine will show that it’s a bad move. The machines don’t know everything, but you can no longer hide behind the authority of the player who made the move.
And I particularly like this allusion towards a comparison between Gutenberg and Zuckerberg. For those of you who are not sure who Gutenberg is, he is the inventor of the printing press. In essence, he was the first person who was able to mass produce books in a scale of thousands. Before this, in order to copy books, one had to reproduce the books by hand, one by one. Essentially, Gutenberg's printing press facilitated the Renaissance era due to the ease of spreading information through "cheaply" printed books.
WPJ: So are we reaching that stage now in Russia? Are we there yet?

KASPAROV: Close, very close. But I wouldn’t look at Russia as something unique. It’s also applicable to the Arab countries. We are entering a brand new world, and the changes we are facing now can be compared only to the late 15th and early 16th centuries with book printing, which united the Reformation and led to the collapse of the traditional map with its old-fashioned monarchies, aristocracies, and Rome. That’s what Martin Luther said when praising Gutenberg—that they got a very powerful weapon in books, printed books, which could involve thousands more people in decision-making. The moment you expand the circle of people who participate in decision-making, you create a new political reality. What we are seeing is that the circle has been expanded from millions to hundreds of millions. We don’t yet know the consequences of the move from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg.
We are in the "Facebook era", for the lack of a better term. Now, instead of information being passed around in books to hundreds of thousands within weeks or months, it can be passed to billions of people in just a matter of seconds. This is more power than anyone could have ever dreamed of. But as in all Spiderman comic strips, "with great power comes great responsibility". It is what we choose to do with that power that will determine the course of our future.

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