Chess computing as a metaphor for Pharma. Who knew?

Above: Kasparov after his first meeting with Deep Blue, in 1997, when he crushed DP. Later it wouldn't go so well.

In a splendid article in the NY Review of books, former world chess champion Gary Kasparov ponders the limitations of technology as a means of playing chess truly well. When I hit this paragraph late in the article, it struck me that you could write much the same thing about pharma. From The Chess Master and the Computer - The New York Review of Books:

Like so much else in our technology-rich and innovation-poor modern world, chess computing has fallen prey to incrementalism and the demands of the market. Brute-force programs play the best chess, so why bother with anything else? Why waste time and money experimenting with new and innovative ideas when we already know what works? Such thinking should horrify anyone worthy of the name of scientist, but it seems, tragically, to be the norm. Our best minds have gone into financial engineering instead of real engineering, with catastrophic results for both sectors.

(via Instapaper)

Only in pharma, it would be "when we already know what sells."

Posted via email from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker


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Really interesting. Another thing is to think about is that the goal of the chess computer industry is easy to test to see if they succeed. The pharma industry's goal is $$$ which is related to health but that discrepancy between the industry and society's goal might further entrench this incrementalism.