There are a few books that I like to reread especially when I need to recharge my motivation. One of these books is “Behind Deep Blue” by Feng-Hsiung Hsu. It is a well-written story about a small team who, as the subtitle says, built ‘the computer that defeated the World Chess Champion’, aka Gary Kasparov. Despite the technical implications in the title, a person moderately familiar with chess and computers would not have any problems following the story. The few geeky parts, scattered here and there, can be skimmed in favor of what really stands out, the human narrative.
The fateful night and soul-searching described in Chapter 3 is one of my favorites. Hsu finds himself at a cross-roads, and only hesitates for a bit before committing to the task at hand. One of the reaffirmed lessons for me is the need to identify the root of confusion and doubt before one could proceed into effective paths. Hsu found the 64-chip design odd even from the beginning, but for various reasons he did not think about alternative solutions. Until he was asked to help out, and he started to look deeper into the technical issues, and then that fateful night of introspection, … and the rest is history, or more precisely, a 12-year endeavor by dedicated individuals.
I really don’t want to give a long book review or spoil the story. Let me just say that there are many lessons in Deep Blue that I find relevant to my own pursuits. Dedication to a task is one of them. Not the ‘blind’ variety, but dedication that springs from the process of working through doubts and the careful assessment of one’s capabilities and limitations. It’s been seven years since I first took the time to really reflect on recurring questions; six years since I decided that yes, I could do something about these questions and started to search for potential paths; four years since I committed to training towards a technical role as warranted by my natural inclinations; and now I’m again purposely moving out of my comfort zone towards unfamiliar territory. Who knows if anything will come out of my projects, but it’s all worth it as I really enjoy the self-imposed challenges.