For a time, most talks and books about automation and the futures of work featured a story about how the future could be about the human-machine-symbiosis. The story referred to a freestyle chess tournament in 2005 where a team of two human players using three different chess programs beats everyone else, individual human players and chess programs. The team combining their own creativity with the strengths of each chess program provided a vision of a future, in which we will work together with the machines, each side doing what it does best. Or, as Martin Ford puts it, machines taking over tasks, not jobs.
This was my main frame of reference for following the hype about the Go match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol.
Damien quoted this part from that Wired
article in his newsletter:
“As [Fan Hui] played match after match with AlphaGo over the past five months, he watched the machine improve. But he also watched himself improve. The experience has, quite literally, changed the way he views the game. When he first played the Google machine, he was ranked 633rd in the world. Now, he is up into the 300s. In the months since October, AlphaGo has taught him, a human, to be a better player. He sees things he didn’t see before. And that makes him happy. “So beautiful,” he says. “So beautiful.””
“One random thought: If Lee is able to beat AlphaGo as both white and black, it could mean that there is an AI that is on par with world champions, but not undeniably better than them – as in the case of chess. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Go-playing AIs hit a plateau at which humans and AIs playing each other consistently improve both’s? That would certainly point to a different future of human-computer relations than a future of domination by AI super-intelligence we read every day. But who knows if that’s the case.”
As someone who referenced that freestyle chess story in his talks, I see incredible potential for the future in our relationship with whatever AI will become. But in my talks, I always follow up the chess story with the warning that this decision is not about “machines” taking away our jobs but about the humans behind the machines fighting for the power to decide about the future of work.