Technology And Human Collaboration – A Viable Business Future Proven By A Simple Chess Puzzle
first published in Seeking Alpha | Mar. 16, 2017

Summary

A unique chess puzzle developed by the brilliant physicist Roger Penrose and his grand master brother provides insights into the difference between human cognition and computer analytics.

It may also be a guide to a model of how computers and humans can work in the business world together collaboratively – rather than the supposed inevitable replacement of humans in the work force by sheer computer analytic might.

Those companies that are combining computer and human collaboration are already showing they are prospering in the new tech age.

Sir Roger Penrose and his brilliant grand master chess brother have come up with a fascinating chess position that can be solved relatively easily by humans, but is usually analyzed incorrectly by the most sophisticated chess computers today (those types of computers who normally can win every single game against world chess champions like Magnus Carlson). I do not want to get bogged down in the chess detail (to save those for whom chess is not a major interest), but want to look at the business and technology implication of this story. But, to give the context, let’s first just briefly describe the basics of the chess problem.

A chess game is in the position as shown below. It is a very unique position indeed, although quite legal.

It is white to move. Stockfish 8 (a powerful chess computer), that would invariably beat the world champion Magnus Carlson, analyses the above position as a strong win for Black. In fact however, it is relatively easy for a moderate level chess playing human, through some basic intuition, to find ways to make this a draw and even, under certain circumstances, a win for white. The element that confuses the computer, in brief, is the fact that you have the extraordinary situation of three black bishops on the same color square. That is probably a position very, very rarely seen, but is legal and technically possible (again we don’t need here to go into how you get to that position).