Idea #5

Idea #5 — Playing Games

A Go board. Looks complicated.

Let’s remember to cherish that which makes us human. All of us have a finite amount of time on this earth and it would be a shame to stop engaging with elements of our world just because of the advancements of AI.

The reason I’m sharing this somewhat trite sentiment is that I read an article in the AI Annual Report by Essentials that needed editorializing. It was titled, Former Go champion beaten by DeepMind retires after declaring AI invincible. Give it a read here and then come back for my thoughts.

Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Go champion, Lee Se-Dol, is retiring from professional play citing AI as a foe too great to ever be defeated. Interestingly enough, Lee is the only human to have beaten Google’s AI-driven, AlphaGo in competitive tournament play. Google has already leveled up since the 2016 debut of AlphaGo with AlphaGo Zero, an even more powerful Go “player”. As other companies and countries get into the mix of programming Go-playing machines what will the future hold? I for one could see something like the AI-Olympics where countries have their machines face-off against each other as us humans watch from the sidelines. People love high-level competition and the existence of robot combat tells me that we aren’t shy about watching machines compete. I hope that Lee’s decision does not snowball into a larger migration of people ceasing to learn games like chess and Go. Just because a computer can beat you consistently does not mean the game is not worth learning or playing. Yes it is existentially worrisome that humans have limitations in their physical neurology such that they can’t factor in the level of data an AI algorithm can, but it is also encouraging that we are at a place where we can create that which is “smarter” than us. It may take the swallowing of great pride to stomach our new 2nd place, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop playing games.

More and more there is fear about the disruption that automation will have on the workforce. Current candidate for United States President, Andrew Yang has made this one of his core issues. A compelling answer to these fears came in the form of another article from the AI Annual Report. Here is a great quote from that MIT Tech Review article, “…when it comes to reshaping how business gets done, pattern-recognition algorithms are a small part of what matters. Far more important are organizational elements that ripple from the IT department all the way to the front lines of a business. Pretty much everyone has to be attuned to how AI works and where its blind spots are, especially the people who will be expected to trust its judgments. All this requires not just money but also patience, meticulousness, and other quintessentially human skills that too often are in short supply.” Point being that the stoking of fears about immediate, AI-powered robots taking over is a bit premature. Yes we should be preparing for the ways in which the world will change, but the alarmist attitude Yang holds or even the defeatist attitude that Lee Se-Dol holds presented in the article about Go is not warranted. AI is not at the point of taking over. Terminator is not here and furthermore the AlphaGo program that beat Lee Se-Dol can only do one thing, play Go. Lee Se-Dol on the other hand is a human capable of everything from thinking about Go on a theoretical level to being a good father and husband. Something a robot surely cannot do yet (and potentially never will?).

Let us continue to play games and enjoy ourselves in 2020 and beyond. We may realize it is easier to discover breakthroughs in the complex fields of AI and Cybersecurity by continuing the storied human tradition of having fun and playing games.

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