Recently, I have been absorbed, as many of us have, by the endless twists and turns surrounding Brexit with some very passionate beliefs being argued.
However in the back of my mind has been the thought – ‘none of this really matters’.
There is a phenomenon that is going to bring far greater change to our lives than exiting the EU or who is gong to win the next election. And what is this amazing driver of change – AI – or artificial intelligence.
I remember in 2017 interviewing Steve Wozniak who was the technical genius behind Apple in the early days. When asked about AI and its influence he was dismissive. His view was, if you show a child a cat when they are 5 years old they can identify all sorts of other animals as cats even if they have darker, shorter or no fur. Cats and kittens are easily identifiable for a human. To get to the same level of competence in a computer would take 20-30,000 images of different cats / kittens being programmed so that the computer could ‘recognise’ all different types of cats.
So I dismissed AI – this eminent thought leader put my mind at rest, until I read ’21 Lessons for the 21st’ Century by Yuval Noah Harari. He is famous for his books Sapiens and Homo Deus.
In this book he described the technology journey to produce a computer capable of beating the world’s best chess players. In 1997 IBM famously built and programmed a computer called Deep Blue to beat the best chess player in the world at the time – Garry Kasparov. It won a six-game match 3½–2½ earning itself a place in computing history.
Deep Blue was capable of evaluating 200 million positions per second operating 6 to 8 moves in advance. It had tremendous processing capabilities that gave it the speed and scope for programming.
Roll on 20 years and Google created AlphaZero to take on Stockfish 8. Stockfish 8 was the world’s chess champion for computers. It had access to 100’s of years of chess playing experience and it could calculate 70 million chess positions a second.
AlphaZero was different – it could only calculate 80,000 positions a second but had never been taught to play chess.
AlpaZero used machine-learning (AI) to self learn by playing against itself.
When they played – AphaZero Vs Stockfish 8 – out of 100 games AlphaZero won 28 while the rest were drawn. Stockfish 8 failed to win a single game.
Now here’s the crunch – how long do you think it took AlphaZero to learn enough chess from playing itself to beat Stockfish 8…………4 hours. In four hours it learnt what had taken humans centuries to master and pass on to Stockfish 8.
So what does this tell us? AI is going to bring the greatest changes to all our lives over the next twenty years. If robots and machinery removed manual jobs in the 20th century then AI is likely to make lawyers, doctors, architects and many other white collar jobs redundant in the 21st century.
Which brings me back to where I started, Brexit……….does it really matter?