The Brains Last Stand
I like chess. In fact, I play bad chess rather well; an interest that started in school with a compulsive interest in the epic match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavík, 1972.
Roll-on almost thirty years and I was fortunate to have a mutual friend of the Grandmaster, Gary Kasparov and one evening, we all met together at a London restaurant, not long after Gary had been beaten in a future-defining match with IBM’s “Deep Blue” chess computer in New York.
It’s a story I tell because this was a single important moment in a road towards artificial intelligence (AI) which takes us to the present, 2016, a year when a computer beat another Grandmaster, this time of the ancient game of GO; Lee Sedol and the vision behind it was Demis Hassibis a former chess prodigy, who started Deep Mind, a London company, recently bought by Google for £300m.
Lee Sedol, a chess prodigy founded Deep Mind
The novelist, Ray Bradbury was once asked “Are you trying to predict the future?” hell no he replied. “I’m trying to prevent it.” We invariably wrap ourselves in knots when we discuss the future in any industry and whether this involves disruptive changes to business in the new platform, “sharing” economy or simple economic Darwinism.
Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine, said the business plans of the next 10,000 start-ups are easy to predict: “Take X and add AI.” Artificial Intelligence is being driven by huge strides in machine learning; the ability to harness and analyse unprecedented volumes of data and the introduction of what is now described as the algorithm economy.
The most powerful A.I. systems, like IBM’s Watson, use techniques like deep learning as just one element in a very complicated ensemble of techniques. The most striking thing about DeepMind’s system is that it solves problems and masters skills without being specifically programmed to do so. It shows true general learning ability.
AI is rapidly developing in new directions
In a little under twelve months since winning a game of Go, which wasn’t predicted to happen for at least another ten years, Deep Mind has introduced curiosity to its AI and now given it a short-term memory. These are huge strides in progress inside a relatively tiny window of time. This progress, driven by Google; whose Larry Page said in May 2002: “Google will fulfill its mission only when its search engine is AI-complete.”
Indeed, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and others are going to introduce changes into our lives within the space of a single decade, that many of struggle to imagine. “The fact that evolution produced intelligence, therefore, indicates that human engineering will soon be able to do the same.” Thus, the robotics scientist, Hans Moravec wrote back in 1976.
AI has crossed a threshold and gone mainstream for the simple reason that it works. It is powering services which make a huge difference in people’s lives, and which now enable companies like Google or Facebook to deliver profits that would have been inconceivable fifteen years ago.
AI has allowed Google to develop huge profits
But AI is a broad field. It’s about to make its impact felt within the information security industry alongside predictive analytics and it would be hard to find a single large business; even conservative law-firms, that aren’t wondering how the introduction of artificial intelligence, “Cognification,” will disrupt them.
So starting with Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue and taking us to the present with Deep Mind and Go, AI is a single important strand in my presentations on the future and where I think all of this may be taking-us; rather more quickly than we might have anticipated.
And of course there’s Chess and it’s worth noting that rather a lot of the world’s most innovative businessmen are quite attached to the game. Maybe there’s something in it after all?