Hello my friends, and welcome to the close of another busy year. My main areas of professional activities—artificial intelligence and tech, Russia, global politics, and human rights, and promoting chess—have all raised their profiles in 2018. And while it might surprise those who only read the headlines, there is much to be optimistic about on every front. Yes, it’s true, as my recent New Yorker interview was titled, that I am “an incorrigible optimist,” but I also base my evaluations on a concrete analysis of the position!
There are many links below to my recent articles and activities, so I will summarize here by saying that several of my long-held positions have become conventional wisdom. It can be frustrating to see how long it took the mainstream to reach my conclusions, especially regarding Putin, where many lives (and perhaps an election or two) could have been saved. But in the global exchange of ideas, the goal is to have your beliefs win out, sooner or later, whether you receive credit or not.
In AI, the public has long been swayed by the doomsayers and their headline-grabbing predictions of apocalypse and terminators. I’ve poked many holes in these self-defeating dystopian visions, and, based on my many invitations to speak at companies conferences, my message of tech optimism and ambition is increasingly convincing. My deepening affiliation with Avast Software has augmented my expertise and my arguments, and I enjoy discussing the vital nexus of rights, security, and tech in my blog there. How well we resolve these issues will define our lives for a generation. My analysis of the exciting machine learning program AlphaZero is important for understanding the next paradigm of how humans will work with our increasingly intelligent machines. We’re not being replaced, we’re being promoted!
The geopolitical scene is fraught with danger, it is true. Putin and Trump are increasingly desperate men who control nearly the entire world’s nuclear arsenal. And yet, even here I am confident that our path trends upwards. The American political system is rusty but is showing that it still works. Wake-up calls must be loud to be effective! Russians are increasingly unhappy with Putin, who may lash out, but the world is now alert to the danger he presents—even if belatedly. The Renew Democracy Initiative, which I founded in New York last year with many brilliant colleagues, has led to collaboration with people on all sides of politics who give me hope for a near future of unity and sanity.
The Kasparov Chess Foundation continues its work promoting my beloved game in classrooms around the world. Aside from its intrinsic benefits for kids, building the grassroots is the best way to support the sport in the long run. Speaking of that, the Grand Chess Tour crowned its champion just last week in London, American Hikaru Nakamura. And we just announced an expansion for 2019, with new events in Croatia, India, and Côte d’Ivoire. I returned to the board myself in my annual appearance in St. Louis, now more for fun than for results. Let’s just say that my efforts to promote chess have had more success than my own efforts at the board, so I’ll call my chess year a draw!
I’m an optimist because I believe the future is a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no destiny beyond our control. If we believe our technology can help us build a better society, we will do it. If we believe democracy and human rights are essential for everyone on the planet, we will make it so. It takes patience, but also action and ambition and creativity. We cannot rely on wishes for the future. Let us build the future we want and make our dreams real by our deeds.
Best wishes and Happy New Year!