20 years ago, in May 1997, the world watched as Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player in the world, was defeated for the first time by the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. He talks to the Hay Festival President about a watershed moment in the history of technology: machine intelligence had arrived at the point where it could best human intellect.
It wasn’t a coincidence that Kasparov became the symbol of man’s fight against the machines. Chess has long been the fulcrum in development of machine intelligence; the hoax automaton ‘The Turk’ in the 18th century and Alan Turing’s first chess program in 1952 were two early examples of the quest for machines to think like humans a talent we measured by their ability to beat their creators at chess. As the pre-eminent chessmaster of the ’80s and ’90s, it was Kasparov’s blessing and his curse to play against each generation’s strongest computer champions, contributing to their development and advancing the field.
Like all passionate competitors, Kasparov has taken his defeat and learned from it. He has devoted much energy to devising ways in which humans can partner with machines in order to produce results better than either can achieve alone. During the 20 years since playing Deep Blue, he has played both with and against machines, learning a great deal about our vital relationship with our most remarkable creations. Ultimately, he has become convinced that by embracing the competition between human and machine intelligence, we can spend less time worrying about being replaced and more thinking of new challenges to conquer.
Kasparov tells his side of the story of Deep Blue for the first time – what it was like to strategize against an implacable, untiring opponent – the mistakes he made and the reasons the odds were against him. And he tells his story of AI more generally, and how he has evolved to embrace it, taking part in an urgent debate with philosophers worried about human values, programmers creating self-learning neural networks, and engineers of cutting-edge robotics.
His previous book was Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped.
The adventurer launches his thriller, in which his hero is sent deep into the Amazon jungle on the hunt for a WW2 secret. Grylls’ recent non-fiction includes True Grit, Extreme Food and Your Life – Train For It. He talks to Clemency Burton-Hill.
Author Michael Morpurgo is joined by actress Alison Reid, violinist Daniel Pioro and The Storyteller’s Ensemble (a quartet of strings). Together they interweave words and music, to tell his haunting tale of survival against the odds, set against the background of the Holocaust. Adapted and directed by Simon Reade.
‘It is difficult for us to imagine how dreadful was the suffering that went on in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. The enormity of the crime that the Nazis committed is just too overwhelming for us to comprehend. In their attempt to wipe out an entire race they caused the death of six million people, most of them Jews. It is when you hear the stories of the individuals who lived through it – Anne Frank, Primo Levi – that you can begin to understand the horror just a little better, and to understand the evil that caused it.
‘For me, the most haunting image does not come from literature or film, but from music. I learned some time ago that in many of the camps the Nazis selected Jewish prisoners and forced them to play in orchestras; for the musicians it was simply a way to survive. In order to calm the new arrivals at the camps, they were made to serenade them as they were lined up and marched off, many to the gas chambers. Often they played Mozart.
‘I wondered how it must have been for a musician who played in such hellish circumstances, who adored Mozart as I do – what thoughts came when playing Mozart later in life? This was the genesis of my story, this and the sight of a small boy in a square by the Accademia Bridge in Venice, sitting one night, in his pyjamas on his tricycle, listening to a busker. He sat totally enthralled by the music that seemed to him, and to me, to be heavenly.’ Michael Morpurgo.
We are delighted to launch Ardennes 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble by the bestselling author of Stalingrad, Berlin and D-Day.
On 16 December 1944, Hitler launched his ‘last gamble’ in the snow-covered forests and gorges of the Ardennes. He believed he could split the Allies by driving all the way to Antwerp, then force the Canadians and the British out of the war. Although his generals were doubtful of success, younger officers and NCOs were desperate to believe that their homes and families could be saved from the vengeful Red Army approaching from the east. Many were exultant at the prospect of striking back.
The Ardennes offensive, with more than a million men involved, became the greatest battle of the war in western Europe. American troops, taken by surprise, found themselves fighting two panzer armies. Belgian civilians fled, justifiably afraid of German revenge. Panic spread even to Paris. While many American soldiers fled or surrendered, others held on heroically, creating breakwaters that slowed the German advance.
The harsh winter conditions and the savagery of the battle became comparable to the eastern front. And after massacres by the Waffen-SS, even American generals approved when their men shot down surrendering Germans. The Ardennes was the battle that finally broke the back of the Wehrmacht.
Waterloo was the climactic showdown between the military giants of the age, Napoleon and Wellington, who faced each other for the first and only time across the sodden rolling Belgian farmland south of Brussels on the morning of Sunday 18 June 1815. More than 150,000 French, British, Dutch and Prussian soldiers fought an epic, bloody and decisive encounter that ended the Napoleonic Wars and led to Bonaparte’s final abdication and decades of international peace in Europe.
Peter and Dan Snow tell the story of Napoleon’s 100 Days Campaign, from his Elba escape to his defeat at Waterloo. Their book, The Battle of Waterloo Experience, provides what no other book on the battle contains – removable facsimiles of historic archival documents. You can relive this extraordinary moment in history by holding and examining rare or previously unpublished sketch maps, letters, orders, official papers and proclamations which up until now have been filed away in the National Army Museum’s collections or in other archives and museums around Europe.
Get close to the action by reading the campaign journal of a colonel of Hussars, the Duke of Wellington’s handwritten orders to the commander defending the farm of Hougoumont, the poignant letters written to family and loved ones by officers and men shortly after the battle, the paybook of a soldier of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, and The Times of 22 June 1815, containing a complete transcript of Wellington’s renowned Waterloo Dispatch.
We are in the midst of a global refugee crisis. Sixty-five million people are fleeing for their lives. The choices are urgent, not just for them but for all of us. What can we possibly do to help? With compassion and clarity, Miliband shows why we should care and how we can make a difference. He takes us from war zones in the Middle East to the heart of Europe to explain the crisis and to show what can be done, not just by governments with the power to change policy but by citizens with the urge to change lives. Miliband is President of the International Rescue Committee.
To celebrate the centenary of the Armistice of 1918, we have commissioned poets from the main protagonist nations to respond to a Great War poem from their own culture. We have poems in French, Russian, German, Welsh and several forms of English. The new poems will be read today for the first time, in the original language and in English translation alongside the works that inspired them, and other poems of the time. The full cast list will be announced on 20 May.
Examining writing about the human experience of warfare. Evison discusses her award-winning account of the impact of the death of her young lieutenant son Mark, who had been serving in Afghanistan. Day’s novel Home Fires is a fictional account of two generations of a family dealing with the reality of war and loss. Chaired by Peter Florence and Steve Corry.
The BBC’s Middle East Editor returns home to bring the news from Mosul, Gaza and Jerusalem. His 25-part series for Radio 4 about the region’s history starts on 15 May. He combines first-hand accounts from the front line with analysis of the politics, economics and societies he’s reported on since he first arrived in the Gulf in 1990. Chaired by Peter Florence.
The TLS history editor chairs this elite unit of award-winning war reporters and authors of new books – Zero Six Bravo, Maverick One and Under The Wire. In an age of mobile-phone footage, embedded journalists and instant disinformations, the values of deep research, personal experience and intelligent analysis are more essential than ever to lend authority and understanding to writing about war.
No American statesman has been as revered and as reviled as Henry Kissinger. Hailed by some as the ‘indispensable man’, whose advice has been sought by every president from John F Kennedy to George W Bush, he has also attracted immense hostility from critics who have cast him as an amoral Machiavellian – the ultimate, cold-blooded ‘realist’. In his first volume of biography, the historian examines Kissinger’s early life (as a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, a poor immigrant in New York, a GI at the Battle of the Bulge, an interrogator of Nazis, and a student of history at Harvard) to understand his debt to the philosophy of idealism. By tracing his rise, fall and revival as an adviser to Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, Ferguson assesses Kissinger’s contribution to the theory of diplomacy, grand strategy and nuclear deterrence.
Questions of masculinity have been at the heart of Sheers’ writing for 20 years, in his plays Mametz and The Two Worlds of Charlie F, in his fiction Resistance and I Saw A Man, and in his poetry – most clearly in Pink Mist. In 2012 he was also artist in residence with the Welsh Rugby Union. Here he interrogates ideas of masculinity in essay form, and reimagines a man’s world.
The award-winning Magnum photographer discusses his 30-year career shooting conflicts, vanishing traditions and contemporary culture with the Artistic Director of the Royal Academy. He presents his latest book From These Hands: A Journey Along the Coffee Trail. This brand new collection documents all the important coffee-growing communities around the world. McCurry’s striking colour portraits reach beyond the physical processes, to capture the very essence of these communities: ‘This project is about coffee, but not in a literal sense. It’s about how we live, about how people interact with one another.’
Photo: Bruno Barbey
Sands’s inquiry into the origins of 'genocide' and 'crimes against humanity' is also a personal quest for his family in the Ukrainian city of Lviv. It won this year’s Baillie Gifford Prize. Hay Festival-goers will have heard Sands explore many of the themes of the story here over the past decade. We revisit East West Street this year to honour one of the greatest works of literature of the festival’s lifetime; a book that might be read around Europe and around the world to inform the way contemporary history is developing.
On the 20th anniversary of publication of his iconic tale of disaster and endurance in the first Iraq War, the Special Forces veteran revisits the story with new material.
We are proud to launch Barbara Winton’s book about her father, the 105-year-old British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 mostly Jewish children from German-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War, in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport. Chaired by Alan Yentob.
The journalist and historian examines the ways in which women’s lives changed during WWI and what the impact has been for women in the hundred years since. Chaired by Jesse Norman.
The novelist revisits his classic Great War novel, first published in 1993. He describes the genesis, research and resonance of the book. Chaired by Stephanie Merritt.
A conversation with the plumber’s mate, lawyer, politician and memoirist, who spent 13 years at the heart of the New Labour government. He was Foreign Secretary at the time of 9/11 and the Iraq War.
The First World War followed a period of sustained peace in Europe during which people talked with confidence of prosperity, progress and hope. But in 1914, Europe walked into a catastrophic conflict that killed millions of its men, bled its economies dry, shook empires and societies to pieces, and fatally undermined Europe’s dominance of the world. It was a war that could have been avoided up to the last moment – so why did it happen? Macmillan is a previous winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the International Affairs Book of the Year at the Political Book Awards 2014 for this book. Chaired by Nik Gowing.
For more than twenty-five years, David Nott has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur, Congo, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Gaza and Syria. He has also volunteered in areas blighted by natural disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. Driven by both the desire to help others and the thrill of extreme personal danger, he is now widely acknowledged to be the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world. Since 2015, the foundation he set up with his wife, Elly, has disseminated the knowledge he has gained, training other doctors in the art of saving lives threatened by bombs and bullets.
The Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE is one of world history’s unjustly neglected events. It decisively ended the threat of a Persian conquest of Greece. For the Spartans, the driving force behind the Greek victory, the battle was sweet vengeance for their defeat at Thermopylae the year before. Cartledge masterfully exposes the Athenian/Spartan rivalry that ‘rewrote the history books’.
Hitler claimed in Mein Kampf that his years as a soldier in the First World War were the most formative years of his life. Weber looks at what really happened to Private Hitler and the men of the Bavarian List Regiment of which he was a member. It is a radical revision of the period of Hitler’s life that is said to have made him. Chaired by Rosie Goldsmith.
The historian looks at both D-Day itself and the wider 77-day campaign and challenges some of the many myths that have arisen. In the 70th anniversary year, he draws on the perspectives and experiences of those who were there, as well as the latest academic thinking and his practical knowledge of the battlefield and the equipment used.
Warpaint by Alicia Foster is a compelling tale of truth and lies, tragedy and black comedy, loosely based on the lives of four painters of the time. The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter is a haunting and moving novel about a mother and a daughter, caught between a tsunami and a war. In Francesca Rhydderch’s The Rice Paper Diaries, four interweaving accounts relate the intimate havoc wrought by military conflict on individual lives. Chaired by Lisa Dwan.