AI is different.

Artificial Intelligence is the fuzz all around the shop these days. Rightly so. If there has ever been disruption in the making, then AI is it. Yet, if it comes to management, there is still the notion that this is "just another tool". Another tool like the ones before. Another tool to level out somewhere and somewhen. It's not. There are some specificities to AI that are hard to grasp with our conventional (management) frame of reference.

Each single loss is irreversible

As soon as an AI “beats” human performance, the battle is lost forever. When Garry Kasparov lost against Deep Blue in 1997, the game of chess was forever lost for humankind. And Deep Blue wasn’t even a proper intelligence, just a rule based brute force engine. And even Deep Blue’s “brute force” was like a toddler’s compared to today’s machines’ powers, about ten cycles of Moore’s law later. When Go was lost to AlphaGo in 2016, Go was lost to the machines’ intelligence forever.

Chess players have adjusted to that fact for quite a while. I occasionally watch running commentaries to chess tournaments (humans against humans). Quite a weird hobby, I admit (not too much happens most of the time). There is always talk of moves only machines would reasonably find and the realms of men and machine are quite well separated. The pattern is the same everywhere. Whilst there is always one to be the next human chess (or Go) champion, surpassing the previous one, no human will ever again win a Go tournament against AlphaGo or one of her siblings. As soon as a machine intelligence beats men in some sort of pattern recognition (like puppy vs muffins), man will never ever stand a chance again. As soon as they give better financial advice … (you get it).

The evolution is steep, more than steep

Whilst it was still a bit of a closer game in 1997 when man could still hope to beat machines in chess by coming up with some weird strategies for a while, the total loss of Go took place within weeks. Whilst the first versions of AlphaGo were trained by using human games, the next ones were trained by playing against different versions of themselves. Within a week these machines’ performance was one, that is literally lightyears beyond what a human brain would ever be able to achieve (in Go). In addition, Moore’s law increases the sheer computing capacity by a factor of two every two years or so. Well, our brains seem to have some spare capacity, too, but is there something only close to Moore’s law for carbon based intelligences?

There are hardly any limits

Board games are one thing (and not trivial ones). But AIs beat or are in the (irreversible) process to bear man in recognition of handwriting, detection of potentially cancerous spots in x-ray images, gaging emotions in expressions and speech, assessing job candidates, giving financial advice … . They started learning to pick up things (by using their own experiences), walking, talking, creating pieces of art. The line moves every day. Why shouldn’t they learn cooking, for example? Giving legal advice looks quite simple. Architecture? Interior design? …

Then, the (more) universal type of intelligence. Chatting around the breakfast table (in order to entertain the carbonides) in the morning, giving legal advice throughout the day, driving the car home from work before reading the kids a good night story. Except that your average AI wouldn’t need 14 hours to do that and many more thigs in parallel.

And finally, either with the next iteration of Moore’s law or simply because artificial brains are not at all constricted in size by a comparatively small sized skull like ours, something that surpasses human intelligence in an even more universal way … .

Philosophy aside

Of course, this prospect causes some serious questions for the future of society and humanity as such. But we do not necessarily have to bother with these. Well actually, we possibly should. But if we don’t want to and want to focus on business instead, there is still a message: AI is not just another tool whose “value” is going to level out somewhen and somewhere. It’s irreversible, developing with ever accelerating speed and almost boundless. Thus, if you want to leverage it (between now and the singularity), it needs a substantial mind shift, utter speed and true outside the box thinking.

 

 

Photo by sk on Unsplash

 

 

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