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Adoption of “Turk” in the digital era – The saga of obsession with speed and quality set to continue

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“The Turk”, also known as the mechanical Turk or automatic chess player, was a chess game machine that was manufactured in the late 18th century. From 1770 until it was destroyed by fire in 1854, it was portrayed as an automation by various owners, though it eventually turned out to be an elaborate joke. To impress Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, it was built in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734–1804). The machine was projected to be able to play a persuasive game of chess against a human opponent. It was also able to perform the knight’s tour (player to move a knight to occupy every square of a chessboard exactly once).

The Turk was a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master to hide in it to operate the machine. With a skilled operator, the Turks won most of the games during their appearances in Europe and America for almost 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers, including politicians like Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.

As one would imagine, the desire for human-like intelligence in a machine or “artificial intelligence” is nothing new. Only after two long centuries, could a machine finally compete against a human. Two chess games (amongst 6 match tournaments) between the world chess champion Garry Kasparov and an IBM supercomputer called Deep Blue finally laid the foundation for real artificial intelligence. The first game took place in Philadelphia in 1996 and was won by Gary Kasparov. The second game was played in New York in 1997 and was won by Deep Blue, powered by IBM’s Artificial Intelligence algorithm. Although Deep Blue had won against humans earlier, the 1997 game was the first defeat of the world champion against a computer under tournament conditions.

For us, there is an essential lesson: The essence of technological progress is based on the human desire that a machine can replace humans. Mechanical automation and robot automation work on the same aspect of technological advancement. The ability of robotic automation to perform human tasks has increased human capital to enable organizations to think and perform tasks that still go beyond computers.

Artificial intelligence and automation raise questions about two important issues. one: working speed and two: production quality

  1. Working speed: In the middle of the 17th century, the concept of time measurement was limited to following the sun, or “clock towers” began to emerge in selected large cities that made it possible for people to use locally. Time. It was only after the invention of trains that the need to standardize the measurement of time in geographic landscapes was recognized and the concepts of “time” and “speed” were valued. This change from “manual work” to “machine work” established the concept of being able to do more, being able to do faster. Since then, machines have been designed to be faster. The industrial revolution brought this aspect to physical work and the computer revolution to mental work. This had an irreparable effect on humans: among other things, the speed of getting things done began to take precedence.
  2. Quality of production: The roots of the quality movement is apparently traced back to medieval Europe when craftsmen began to organize themselves in trade unions called guilds at the end of the 13th century. These guilds developed strict rules for product and service quality. Inspection boards enforced the rules by putting special markings or markings on the defective goods. The quality craze was then limited to a few elites. The industrial revolution has redefined quality standards. What previously only a skilled craftsman could do, can now be produced automatically in better quality using machines. This was the time when a change in qualification requirements became apparent: people now had to work on machines instead of making products by hand.

Obsession with speed and quality manifests into AI and automation initiatives across the organizations. Organizations need to keep history and human aspirations at the fore to design AI and automation initiatives. The design principles should be to improve speed, reduce manual and mental labor, and improve the quality of products and services.

History will continue to manifest itself in a manner consistent with the aspirations that are being nurtured for centuries and growing in the time foreseeable. Given that this obsession is not newly found, it is unlikely to fade away quickly. The leading organizations will adopt the “Turk” while the others wait and watch!





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Mayank Jain 
VP – Business Consulting, ITC Infotech

Mayank Jain is Vice President – Business Consulting at ITC Infotech. He has over 20 years of experience in business and consulting roles. Mayank has led complex digital engagements for many fortune companies and as a Digital Transformation evangelist, he has created several cutting-edge capabilities. Mayank currently leads the Go To Market efforts for the Automation Practice at ITC Infotech and is an automation enthusiast.