At the Disruptions 2005 technology conference put on by Deloitte in San Francisco today, world renowned chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov gave a brief speech and then simultaneously played against about 20 of the executives attending the conference. I talked to Udi Manber, CEO of Amazon’s A9 search engine, who proudly told me he lasted 23 moves with Kasparov, who was ranked number one in the world from 1984 until his retirement earlier this year.
Kasparov also has historic connection with technology. In the spring of 1997, Deep Blue, IBM’s supercomputer, beat Kasparov, marking the first time a computer won over a reigning world champion.
Since retiring from chess, Kasparov has been devoting his time to political causes and writing a book. The book, to be published by Penguin in the spring of 2006, is tentatively titled How Life Imitates Chess. "My book will analyze the decision-making mechanism," Kasparov said. The book will explain the rationale behind decision-making, which includes general concepts and what he termed ‘synergies.’ The book will also include case studies from various fields, not just chess.
I asked if he had read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, and he replied, "Of course. But the idea of my book is that you have to develop your own formal decision making, fighting against ‘general advice.’ It has to be tailored to the individual, using their own strengths and weaknesses," Kasparov said. Gladwell’s Blink suggests that 'thin-slicing,' focusing on just a few factors, can yield better decision-making results than processing the most information or spending more time in deliberation.
In the political arena, Kasparov is chairman of the Free Choice 2008 Committee in Russia, a liberal opposition group to the Putin administration. He has publically called Putin an exemplary Stalinist and a fascist. I asked whether he is promoting e-government initiatives as part of his political platform in Russia. “There is a rising dictatorship. Before we can discuss or implement e-government and other virtual concepts, we have to make sure that we have the space to do it,” Kasparov said.