Deep Blue's a Winner, but He's Shallow

All the attention given to the chess match between Gary Kasparov and IBM's computer Deep Blue has been interesting. Billed as Man versus Machine, the match reveals how poorly we understand intelligence, as well as our apprehension at the idea of doing so.

In movies such as "2001," fears of computers have been given voice. More recently, in the Terminator films, computers become sentient and proceed to kill their would-be human masters.

Why all the attention and fear? Because our sense of identity has been challenged, on the grounds most often held as the prized birthright that separates us from the animal kingdom - our intelligence.

But chess, while enormously demanding intellectually, involves the merest fragment of the human intelligence, let alone its full creative potential. That one of the world's most powerful computers, computing hundreds of millions of moves per second, developed with chess masters specifically to beat Kasparov, barely was able to outdo him (and then only when the pressure got to Kasparov), shows how weak computers are.

It is unlikely that the current generation will see a HAL-like computer found in "2001." In fact, development of a self-aware computer may never happen. The real threat, if there is one, is in the meanings we attribute to events such as this match - the hype only seems to strengthen the tendency to describe human beings as "computer-like," devaluing our enormous creativity. Even in defeat Kasparov exemplified great human qualities, not least of which was an appreciation for the symbolic weight of the event, a capability that computers may well never achieve.

Rafael K. Reyes

San Francisco

Not ready to raise the grandchildren

The column "Even a Grandmother Must Be a Superwoman," (May 8) is seductively flattering to my generation and deserves careful consideration.

Sen. Daniel Moynihan has written that society copes with its unsolvable problems by lowering its standards. I submit that the author's warm and fuzzy statement belongs in this problem-solving category.

As a mother, I cannot count any friends or acquaintances who consider themselves fortunate to have grown children, and, perhaps, grandchildren, dependent on them for physical, emotional, and, sometimes, economic support. Most of my age group believe we are responsible for the consequences of our choices, whether in marriage, children, or economic decisions. If assuming responsibility for the welfare of our grown children engenders so much "love" on the part of the dependent persons, why then is it necessary for the senior caregivers to gather for emotional support on a regular basis?

The head of the Foundation for Grandparenting, Arthur Kornhaber, is quoted as saying that grandmothers need to redefine themselves because our lives are longer, implying that this should include extended caregiving. My experience is that we grandparents want to use our retirement years to fulfill the pleasures and interests we willingly postponed when we were raising families. We recognize that there are emergencies where our help is needed (and gladly given), but we object to being expected to give extended care.

We are flatteringly described as being "incredibly powerful peacemakers not to react not to judge, but to be forgiving and loving." Well, isn't that convenient for those needing care! Dr. Kornhaber might add that we seniors should not be surprised to find, perhaps, that these qualities may not be present in our children and grandchildren when we are in need of physical, emotional, or even monetary support.

It's too bad that the idea that we must teach the younger generation that assuming responsibility is the final mark of adulthood is no longer fashionable. I think we need to expect more from our families than a Mother's Day card once a year.

Grace P. Cooper

Lawrence, Kan.

Your letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com

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