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Terminated? Not just yet.

Published: Feb 09 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

It was in 1996 that Deep Blue, an IBM chess computer first beat the best human chess player, Garry Kasparov, becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch. IBM refused and retired Deep Blue

Since then computers have become more and more powerful whilst simultaneously becoming smaller and more pervasive. Driverless cars, planes, robotic production and more recently in Japan the introduction of caring robots to help nurse the increasingly elderly population. Perhaps my Economics Professor was right that increasing technology would mean less and less work for the ordinary man, itself a real economic and social problem for today’s economies.

Computing and A.I. (artificial intelligence) took another huge step forward last week, when an artificial intelligence called Libratus beat four of the world’s best poker players in a grueling 20-day tournament.

The Brains v A.I. competition saw four human players – Dong Kim, Jason Les, Jimmy Chou and Daniel McAulay – spend 11 hours each day stationed at computer screens in the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh battling a piece of software at no-limit Texas Hold’em, a two-player unlimited form of poker. Libratus outmaneuvered them all, winning more than $1.7m in chips.

With chess, each player can see the entire board, but with poker players don’t get to see each other's hands. Furthermore, the AI is required to bluff and correctly interpret misleading information in order to win. Something that always seemed to me to be a particularly human trait.

The computer was not even taught, or programmed to play. It was simply given the rules of the game, and started playing randomly but over the course of playing trillions of hands was able to refine its approach and arrive at a winning strategy.

What next?

The system could have a variety of applications outside of recreational games, from negotiating business deals to setting military or cyber security strategy and planning medical treatment – anywhere where humans are required to do strategic reasoning with imperfect information.

So the writing maybe on the wall for professional negotiators.

Not there yet, and until the perfect machine shows up, maybe you ought to be brushing up your current level of skill. Figuring out winning strategies, planning and preparing more effectively, brainstorming how to create value and what to say at the table.

Happy to help till the robots take over.

Alan Smith


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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