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Artificial Intelligence: is it time for the human race to Go?

So Google's Artificial Intelligence has gone and done it again. It leads the world Go champion Ke Jie 2-0 so far in China. The self-learning AlphaGo AI is playing 19-year-old Ke Jie at the "Future of Go Summit" near Shanghai this week in a three-game match. The win against Ke Jie — who has been playing Go since the age of 5 — puts AlphaGo just one victory away from a 3-0 win. But artificial intelligence is no respecter of how long Ke Ji has been playing, how long humans have been playing the world's oldest board game (3,000 years), or the fact that it is the complex strategy game in the world.

Nor will AI respect how long you have been working and learning your craft, how long your companies and organisations may have been running or how long they may have been dominant.

AI is not playing games. So is it game over for the human race?

Possibly.

AlphaGo’s feat is impressive. It comes in a line of such triumphs of machine over man that include Deep Blue beating Gary Kasporov at chess, IBM Watson beating the reigning champions of Jeopardy and Google Deepmind’s wins last year over some Atari arcade games. The capacity of these technologies to absorb, analyse and action based on huge data sets is undeniable and getting stronger. These feats are not just limited to games. Artificial Intelligence is being widely used in logistics, manufacturing and, of course, the military. Self-driving cars are being tested on public roads, drones are delivering packages in record times and 3D printers are producing complex moving structures. The Internet of Things is spreading its tentacles across the world. Sensors are being scattered across cities, embedded in buildings and even people. The name, Go, literally means ‘encircling game’. We are being steadily encircled by technology.

Possibly not.

Watson is now being used in healthcare and has been proven to provide more accurate diagnoses of cancer than healthcare professionals. So artificial intelligence has the power to solve complex human issues. And AlphaGo's ability to tackle a highly complex game like Go shows its ability to look “globally” across a board. This raises the possibility of artificial intelligence finding world solutions that humans don’t necessarily see in big complex areas, like climate change, energy resourcing and food production. It’s also worth reminding ourselves that AlphaGo is still essentially a human triumph. We are a long way off the creation of artificial sentient beings. What we have now is some powerful task orientated artificial intelligence. AlphaGo is brilliant at Go, but it couldn’t tie its own shoelaces.

The future.

We live in fearful times. The sorts of stories we produce portray scary images of the technological future: Terminator, Ex Machina, Transcendence, Humans… the list goes on. Gone is the optimism of the 1980s’ Back to the Future with its flying cars, self tying boots and pizza printing machines. But we are applying our current fearful state to our feelings of the future. We cling to the past almost before it is the past: Instagram photos with vintage filters and selfies. We are trying to create a sense of certainty in uncertain times. And as organisations we look very short-term - at most five years - because we find the future unsettling, strange and scary.

 

But ‘future’ is a plural word. There are many possible futures. And we all have a chance to shape the future. As organisations, companies and people, we should free our minds of the current fearful view of the future and consider other outcomes. Positive futures. What would you like the future to be? What is your preferred future? Storytelling is an age-old human technique for addressing the unknown, the strange and the scary. We should think of other stories than the Terminator. Thinking longer term and thinking how you and your organisation can fit in to the story of a positive future, opens up new possibilities. It also helps us ask the right questions and make the right choices now. Technology doesn’t have to be toxic, but too often it is because we don’t question how we use it. The future too could be a toxic technology future, unless we question how it could be. I have been helping a range of companies do this in sectors from retail, to utilities, to healthcare, to marketing. It is not always easy to change one’s perception of reality, but when it happens, it is extremely positive, liberating and empowering.

 

AlphaGo should remind us all to take a longer term view of technology, consider what we want the future to be like and make some positive choices now. Do you as an individual, a company, an organisation or as part of a society have an artificial intelligence strategy? If not, it's time to get one.

 

The game has only just begun for the human race.

 

Martin Talks

Principal, Digital Disruption School, and founder of Matomico and 10xArmy.

The future.

We live in fearful times. The sorts of stories we produce portray scary images of the technological future: Terminator, Ex Machina, Transcendence, Humans… the list goes on. Gone is the optimism of the 1980s’ Back to the Future with its flying cars, self tying boots and pizza printing machines. But we are applying our current fearful state to our feelings of the future. We cling to the past almost before it is the past: Instagram photos with vintage filters and selfies. We are trying to create a sense of certainty in uncertain times. And as organisations we look very short-term - at most five years - because we find the future unsettling, strange and scary.

But ‘future’ is a plural word. There are many possible futures. And we all have a chance to shape the future. As organisations, companies and people, we should free our minds of the current fearful view of the future and consider other outcomes. Positive futures. What would you like the future to be? What is your preferred future? Storytelling is an age-old human technique for addressing the unknown, the strange and the scary. We should think of other stories than the Terminator. Thinking longer term and thinking how you and your organisation can fit in to the story of a positive future, opens up new possibilities. It also helps us ask the right questions and make the right choices now. Technology doesn’t have to be toxic, but too often it is because we don’t question how we use it. The future too could be a toxic technology future, unless we question how it could be. I have been helping a range of companies do this in sectors from retail, to utilities, to healthcare, to marketing. It is not always easy to change one’s perception of reality, but when it happens, it is extremely positive, liberating and empowering.

AlphaGo should remind us all to take a longer term view of technology, consider what we want the future to be like and make some positive choices now. Do you as an individual, a company, an organisation or as part of a society have an artificial intelligence strategy? If not, it's time to get one.

The game has only just begun for the human race.

Martin Talks

Principal, Digital Disruption School, and founder of Matomico and 10xArmy.

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