AlphaZero Our New Opponent

Artificial Intelligence is moving faster than I’ve predicted. Go figure! Listen very carefully Cleveland, Tennessee. AlphaZero, or shall we say a game playing AI created by Google’s DeepMind, is learning how to master complex games such as chess within hours now! In Fact, AlphaZero decided to teach itself the complexities of the game of chess and was able to defeat the current world-champion chess program in only four hours. I don’t know about you but when I was a kid, I had to study the intricacies of chess strategy and learn the many openings, middle game, and endgame tactics of chess due to necessity. Learning concepts such as dominating the center of the board, sacrificing pieces to gain position, the four houses defense or the imaginative attacking style of Alexander Alekhine, my favorite chess master by the way, took a lot of brain work.

Let me tell you, people. I have no idea how this machine mastered chess so quickly. It isn’t humanly possible! Well, AlphaZero is superhuman, without a doubt.

Let me put some drama in this column, if you don’t mind. It is December 9, 2017, and a piece of intelligent machinery just figured out a way to self learn the quite complex domain of chess without you or me, quickly. See? Back in 2015 when AlphaZero was using the innovative approach of mixing deep neutral-network machine learning and what is referred to as tree search techniques, many people thought that moving beyond that would take a lot of years. It is now two years later, after AlphaZero learned how to observe humans and engage in a process called reinforcement learning, DeepMind is reaching ridiculous levels of advancement in intelligence.

Look, Moore’s law teaches us that the number of transistors in a circuit doubles every two years on average. Can we now say that the machine is learning, or shall we say getting more intelligent every two years? I don’t know, maybe. Which world are we living in these days anyways? AlphaZero should be named by Time Magazine as the “person” of the year in my opinion. Who, in history, can learn a complex field in four hours? I don’t know anybody, do you?

Let me report on the specifics of AlphaZero’s developments in chess learning, as I understand. This bot is pretty savvy as “he” starts by first playing against a version of himself to eventually discover which move results in the best outcome. Sophisticated play is, with time, tied to the knowledge gained by the machine against the best chess players.  Overtime, through continuous success, the machine learns how to make the best move by associating its move behaviors with its rate of success. AlphaZero’s secret to quick mastery is to always play against an opponent who is technically “better” than him. Overtime, this intelligent machine learns to play better chess by self study.

AlphaZero is now learning how to play video games better by trying to beat itself in an attempt to achieve excellence, engaging in critical thinking ties to life outcomes, and competing against the best aren’t just activities that a bot can learn to play better chess. Sooner or later, Google will leverage such developments to sell this technology to the corporate sector. 

I wonder what will be AlphaZero’s real challenge! Google’s CEO, in an interview given about a month and a half ago, stated that the future of AI is already here. Some people are even

stating that computers are adapting to us rather than us adapting to them! Listen carefully: The future of Google is in Artificial Intelligence, I bet. AlphaZero will only get better not worse. Remember what I once told you: Tomorrow will be nothing like today. We might as well get used to it and start adapting to this crazy reality, we call artificial intelligence. Yesterday we used to talk about IBM’s Watson. Today we speak about DeepMind and AlphaZero. I wonder what we are going to talk about tomorrow. 

The world has changed drastically folks. The machine is now learning at jet speeds. How are we going to compete against these data warriors? AlphaZero has mastered chess today. I wonder what he will master tomorrow. This is getting pretty scary.


Internet algorithms and brand allegiance

I am afraid that top fashion brands such as Guess, The Limited, and Abercrombie & Fitch might go bankrupt in the near future and therefore be obligated to close their operations because of artificial intelligence technology. Let me say this differently — These former companies may be on their way to extinction because of the way we are thinking about our underlying human assumptions of what makes us profitable and functional which is a fundamental change in how things have been done in the past. Artificial Intelligence is changing us maybe unconsciously which will have a tremendous impact on the retail industry.

This article is about artificial intelligence and how AI may financially impact top fashion brands in the coming years. I am predicting that a number of well established luxury fashion brands will close their doors by 2025 because of technology. I hope that I am wrong about this but the signs seem clear cut to me. IBM is predicting almost 90% of customer interactions to be handled on-line without a human agent. This is very bad news for luxury fashion brands because their main sales point is selling their name. Millennials and younger do not have brand allegiance to these “old school” brands. They don’t know they exist! No wonder why stores like Macy’s and Sears are in the position that they are today. Those department stores are one of the main dealers for luxury brands.  Think about it — When was the last time you saw or you personally bought a luxury brand item from a department store? How about when it wasn’t a holiday? In the new age of information, these traditional brands may be at a disadvantage because there will be app algorithms that will find customers the best, cheapest items but those items will be tailored to what they are watching or clicking on. These luxury brands can no longer ride the coattails of success because brand allegiance is based on internet views not how long a brick and mortar store has been in existence.

Let me share something with you. My wife and I used to own a small business back in Pennsylvania prior to moving to the south. We learned, through experience and the science of observation, that customers will only buy from a local business if the prices are cheap or if the item is handmade. People are only trusting in the reviews from YouTube celebrities, bloggers, and vloggers. Younger and younger generations will turn to the internet and turn away from the customer service experience, being taught by older generations that the “salesman” is trying to sucker you. So, who will the new buyers trust?

The human side of their business, which has been at the center of their business model for decades, will prove to be irrelevant in the new age of intelligent machinery. We are going to see the birth of reinforcement learning where autonomous agents will maximize rewards. The traditional luxury brands will fight this war with “horses” where emergent e-retail giants will annihilate them with intelligent algorithms from behind.    

The old fashioned way Guess used to sell expensive clothing to you and me will mean very little in 2025. Is there a solution for them? I don’t know… I don’t think so. I am very skeptical that these companies will be able to adapt to this artificial intelligence mindset. Even if they could adapt to this upcoming reality, I don’t even think that there is enough time for them to make the transition even if they wanted to. I am afraid that these luxury company’s days are counted.

This is what I believe. We are going to see more and more intelligent systems that will help us to buy products at the cheapest price and tailored just for us. The machine will only get better at learning what you like the most and dislike the least. I do think that new e-brands will emerge in this transition. I also think that the adoption of AI in e-retail will also prove to be the “Analog” companies biggest nemesis. Tomorrow, I bet, will prove to be nothing like the past. Life changes. Retail is no exception.

“Dr. AI”

I don’t know about you but when I am sick, I like going to see the doctor and speaking with a person. There is something natural about seeking medical advise from a fellow human being. After all, they themselves also struggle with some of the many issues I struggle with like  fighting a cold, having a headache or how to deal with allergies. What if I told you that technology has the potential to make physicians a thing of the past and change the former patient-doctor dynamic forever?

Deep learning, or networks that are capable of learning unlabeled unsupervised data, is already impacting the practice of medicine. Do you know that there are a number of startup companies already able to analyze radiographs and MRi scans with a higher degree of accuracy? Let me say this again — There is a fully mechanical medical system named entilic that is able to detect and classify lung nodes as either benign or malignant in human beings without the consultation of a physician. 

Holy cow! We now have sophisticated self diagnosing medical algorithms that detect early tumor stages. In which world are we living in? Even the untouchable medical field is now being affected by advances in modern technology. Well, I have to admit that I am uncomfortable with the idea that a machine could be my next family physician. Maybe I am just too old school to accept this possibility. I trust physicians much more than any machine. I am not saying that I don’t trust a medical computer system, though. There is room for that, for sure. However, the moment the we start accepting fully automated computer based care I think we have gone a bit too far.

What if the machine is wrong and you die? I am not sure if I can trust a deep learning system that claims to be able to calculate patient’s rates of medicinal drug recovery. It doesn’t seem right to me. How can we really know that these systems are right anyways, I ask. I don’t deny that some computer systems already have the capability of examining hundreds of 3D molecule images and provide quite sophisticated outcomes for a trained physician. What I am not sure is if we should be constantly celebrating advancements in technology from startup heath tech organizations for the sake of advancing technology. I see the value of a machine helping us with detecting cancer from blood samples but at what cost? If physicians are then downgraded to the role of an assistant, I think this is a bad idea.   

The former is the scary part to me. Investors of ground breaking medical technology have argued that the machine will be capable of having the brainpower of thousands of doctors in the near future and should help rather than hurt patients seeking a doctor’s expertise. I bet that many doctors believe otherwise.

Which impact will these upcoming technologies have to our local medical offerings? Is it going to bring better care to our communities? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that we are going to experience, in our lifetime, a major shift in how we engage in the logistics of medicine consumption in Cleveland and beyond. Many claim that artificial intelligence will never fully replace doctors. I am skeptical about that. AI will replace many doctors because as AI algorithms become more sophisticated, the need for human intervention to work side-by-side with these computer systems will sharply decrease.

Medicine is on its way to becoming a human computer interaction experience for the majority of the people. Many MD’s will be replaced with these AI technologies overtime and the ones who manage to survive the transition will find themselves stretched professionally. I hope that my predictions prove to be wrong. I just can’t see we deviating from this obvious technological trend. Machine learning is here to stay and they will eventually mass infiltrate our system of medicine when we least expect. Be ready!

Artificial Intelligence And Robots Might Change Banking Forever

According to Pandit, 30% of bank jobs may disappear in the next five years. Who is Vikram Pandit anyways? Well, he was Citigroup’s CEO at the height of the great recession between the years 2012-2017. He is claiming that artificial intelligence and robotics are going to be the technologies that may slash back office bank jobs. I think he is right on, by the way. Think about it. Why would any company extend you a job offer if they can produce a technology that makes your job obsolete? 

Citizens of Cleveland, Tennessee…I’ve said this once and will say it again. Modern technologies are stealing your jobs! Before we make the decision to adopt these things, we need to think about its systemic consequences. Here is how I make my decisions about upcoming technologies, being cognizant of our community as a whole versus just me as an individual. If the technology will make our lives better overall, then we should use it, support it and even defend it. If technology won’t make our lives better, we should stop using it, boycott it, and be vocal against it.

Listen carefully: Artificial Intelligence is likely to take your jobs away. Machine learning and cloud computing will automate back office banking job functions and will impact their overall operation. If you work for a bank in town, consider this when celebrating all these advancements in artificial intelligence. You may be the next in line to lose your job.   

Commercial banks are going to adopt advanced technology in order to reduce costs at your expense. Researchers are estimating almost 800,000 bank jobs to be cut because of these upcoming AI technologies. In Europe, the number is higher. I wonder how many jobs AI will cut in emergent markets like India and Brazil. How can this be good news for anybody, by the way? The robots are coming to replace you! But many, including thousands who work in the bank industry, worship all these advancements in technology. Do you see the irony?

Pandit is not alone with his predictions. Axel Lehmann, UBS’s COO seems to agree with him claiming that artificial intelligence will literally change the banking industry’s operation. In an earlier article I’ve written here at the Cleveland Daily Banner, I have described how the new production equation attempts to eliminate its labor portion in an attempt to make production equal capital rather than production equaling labor plus capital. Perhaps, the former might be the way banks try to keep afloat because of all this infusion of technology in their living systems. No matter which industry you are in, most enterprises I know operate under a well thought out business model,  a clever business strategist should maximize the uses of technology (AI, robotics, and such) in order to maximize profit. I get it… In the end it is about money or shall we say, making a lot of money. I am convinced of one thing, introducing a new business model maximizing artificial intelligence and robotics will reduce labor in the new age of information.

I predict that the new banking model using artificial intelligence and robotics will end up imploding in the long-run.  Banks are going to end up shooting themselves in the foot by believing that labor is irrelevant to their operation. The question is whether we should invest in people or in technology. Having served in the capacity of interim department chair in two public institutions before joining the faculty at Lee University, where I had to make some of these decisions, I have always opted to keep good people. I don’t really think that artificial intelligence or a robot can do the work of an experienced banker. Do you really want to call a 1-800 number to get support about that deposit you did on Friday that didn’t go through? I don’t think you do. Do you? 

Bots 1… People 0.

I do action research in artificial intelligence as it pertains to the media. Some of the things I like to investigate include the use of automated systems and its impacts on consumer engagement and social media likability, the impacts of bots for the growth of social media accounts, and the upcoming big data software tools used on the market today by media companies. I am interested in business intelligence and how the former has an impact on how we communicate and advance the business of media. We need to know what is coming towards us in order for us to be able to act and strategize accordingly.

By better understanding innovation, we give ourselves the chance to predict human behavior and corporate response. Understanding where we are in the adoption and acceptance of artificial intelligence tools, I would argue, is critical for our survival in 2017 and beyond. My fellow citizens of Cleveland, Tennessee, we better get on the ball and start paying closer attention to how these tools will impact our lives because we will see, in the near future, an explosion of artificial intelligence artifacts in our communities. Well, it is already happening in the media but it will be more mainstream in your industry, as well.

Let me share this with you — I have been conducting a pilot study on the impacts of what I call hybrid robotic generated content versus human based keystrokes. For about a month or so, I have been working with an artificial intelligence system that is able to co-generate short blog articles for mass consumption. The scary part, or exciting one if you are a TechnoGroupie, is that I am finding no significant differences in engagement and likability between my own articles and the ones I co-write with a robot! With things being fair — I serve as both writer and editor with the robot. Without my inputs, the bot stories are nothing but a non-sense piece. My human touch is still required to make the computer generated artifact ready for media consumption.   

I find the former pretty disturbing because as this technology develops, we run the risk of seeing less articles written by human beings. That means less jobs and less taxes being paid to support local communities. Let me clarify one important thing, though. Newspapers that have a local reach, like ours, shouldn’t be affected by this upcoming era of self writing systems. Relationships and identification within the community can’t be easily replaced by a bot. Big media conglomerates, however, will operate differently. In fact, they are already operating differently. Have you heard about the 100 anchors, reporters, analysts and production staffers who lost their jobs lately at ESPN?

Do you know that the New York Times uses machine-learning technology in order to identify patterns in financial campaign data? The Associated Press is now using Automated Insights, an artificial intelligence tool that generates stories with big data ranging from public company earnings to minor league baseball games. Artificial intelligence will revolutionize the media business as we are going to see an explosion of articles using sophisticated artificial intelligence big data technology which will probably reverse the current societal belief that news is fake. The former will come at the expense of the little man working in these big media conglomerates. Media validity will resurge.

From a business sense, investing in both labor and capital where artificial intelligence serves as both don’t make too much sense to me because sophisticated machines can act “like” a human being if programmed correctly overtime. Because of advances in AI, many media professionals will be forced to retire from places like CNN or ABC which would cause a significant impact on how these organizations operate. Institutional knowledge isn’t something that an intelligent machine can replace with ease. I predict a lot of managerial turbulence in the media industry ahead because of the implementation of artificial intelligence tools. Machines are learning! The use of bots for social media growth will only get more sophisticated. Organizations that ignore the use of big data systems will be left behind. The robots are winning! I am concerned. How about you?

Are You Ready To Be Cloned?

In a recent television interview, Vladimir Putin said, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere (Artificial Intelligence) will become the ruler of the world.” I am afraid he is right about that. We are not taking any chances. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) currently has 137 pilot projects directly related to artificial intelligence underway. It seems evident to me that we have reached a point of no return in regards to fully investing in the development of intelligent systems. The former gives me goosebumps and chills. 

The United States has always been an empire of ideas; A country that premiums talent and human ingenuity. You got a great idea? Awesome! Let’s develop that idea and take you away from the competitive proletariat ball field. The great business geniuses of the 20th century, e.g., Sam Walton founder of Wal-Mart, Steve Jobs co-founder of Apple, and of course the great Henry Ford — all had two things in common. They were very talented and human but none of them were able to be omnipresent in their economy. Modern applied technology changes that. Artificial intelligence reinforces that! You can now be cloned and “work” in more than one industry at the same time by either using or developing intelligent systems.    

Historically, our capitalist society worked this way. People who had a brilliant idea and were able to make that idea work got to the top and remained at the top freeing up positions at the bottom for the remaining of the population. The development of intelligent systems changes this dynamic by introducing “cyber-cloning” into this midst. These days, we can clone your thoughts and actions and advance other areas of the economy, literally making many compete against your e-persona for a place under the sun. Let me say it this way. Your biggest competitor might actually be an intelligent robot hosted somewhere in Utah, citizens of Cleveland, Tennessee. This is probably what the CIA is doing right now. It is humanly impossible to be working 24/7 yet defense isn’t a 9-5 job. Think about it. It gives me chills to think about the number of unqualified workers who will be out of the job market due to advances in technology. Ladies and gents, we’re going to see this sooner than later. 

How would you feel about that? There are intelligent systems today that can organize warehouses better than you and your friends. In many parts of the USA, trash is now taken by a robot. Intelligent systems are now doing some of the work which were historically done by lawyers. A number of the videos that you see on television were done by an automated system. What if I told you that I have an intelligent system promoting my wife’s start-up right now, as I am writing this column. In the past, Dr. A was only able to be a college professor, opening up opportunities for others to sell their services to us as social media professionals. Today, Dr. A is both a college professor and social media manager at the same time. Part of me is now digital! The former is a huge shift in how our capitalist system operates these days because of technology.

I am going to make a prediction. In the near future, true wealth is going to aggregate among a few big business conglomerates offering little opportunity for others less fortunate within the system. We are going to be able to clone our thoughts and ideas and maximize our professional talents in ways that we have never seen in the history of mankind. Capital, not labor, is going to be the fuel of production. The world that our sons and daughters are going to see when they grow old will be nothing like what we see today. Artificial intelligence is here to stay and with time… it will only get more intelligent.

AI: Finishing Your Thoughts

The smartphone of the future will act much like how google search suggestions work today. When we type the word “screen addiction” on google, the search engine shows us four options — “Screen Addiction, screen addiction test, screen addiction statistics and screen addiction child” and then we choose among these options without doing too much thinking or typing. Be ready citizens of Bradley County and beyond! Our future daily decisions will be automated by an artificial intelligence algorithm inside of an upcoming new gadget that is unlikely to resemble what we call a smartphone today. Artificial intelligence will become a dangerous commodity.

Use predictions and tailored notifications will be a part of “us” a few years from now. Be ready to accept that a part of you and me will be stored in a foreign country yet available at your fingertips on an immediate basis. Let me illustrate logistically how this system will operate in practice. Let’s for a minute assume that one of your friends want to know whether you will be going to participate in the upcoming 5K marathon in Cleveland. Rather than typing a response to him, your communication device will show you options already made based on your previous responses while texting. If you haven’t talked about marathons before, I bet that this system will use the most used pre-programmed responses about marathons among the huge global big data database that is already being developed for your convenience.

The system becomes intelligent overtime meaning that as you pick certain preferences, the computer system starts to better understand who you are and consequently is able to better predict your responses. The machine will be more aware of your lifestyle overtime with tremendous accuracy. Ladies and gentleman, we are going to laugh about how we used to communicate with others in the past. Your children and grandchildren one day are going to ask you, “How do you know what to say?”

In a recent article published by Fortune Magazine, they call this phenomenon the virtual version of you. What is crazy about this whole thing is that some of the elements I have written above are already being developed by startup companies in the San Francisco area. I don’t know about you but having a computer system collecting all my data so that it can generate individualized content specifically designed to make me respond to others without doing too much thinking seems to be a dangerous idea to me yet its not that far away from being a reality in America today. The near future will be a weird one and I recommend that you start getting used to being uncomfortable with issues of artificial intelligence. Technology can be designed to be invasive and many times revolutionary. Being revolutionary may be a good thing but not at the expense of our ability to think critically. I wonder what this upcoming artificial intelligence tech trend will do especially to the sons and daughters of the generation Z. I am deeply concerned about how they will be able to do any thinking of their own. I am predicting, based on this boom of artificial intelligence, that the post-millennial generation will be characterized as the “irrational” generation. What a tragedy!

Artificial intelligence is here to stay. Algorithms will be, as Marshall McLulan once said, a part of you. What was impossible for the old generation is now possible today. If you think that all this technology makes you uncomfortable today, wait until you have a script telling you how to respond to a work supervisor and then the message is intercepted by a hacker. Security will be huge along with message encryption. I wonder what people are going to say about technology then. Only God will tell.

Success In The Age Of Automation

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people possessing a bachelors degree still make more than people who only complete a high school diploma or an associates degree in full-time work. A talented masters degree recipient makes on average 15% more than those who hold a four year degree, as long as both are over the age of 25. Professional degrees tend to generate 50% more return over a person’s investment against a bachelors degree. Clearly, pursuing formal education is worthwhile statistically but not in the way you may think. 

The majority of people would agree that when a person combines a solid college education with hard work, it is nearly impossible to fail. Although this has been the case for many years, I don’t think that we are operating under the same criteria anymore. A college degree and hard work isn’t enough for you to succeed in the workforce anymore — at least not in the long run. College students must work with professors who understand where the economy is going and how to anticipate the effects of automation in their fields during academic advising and work together to come up with a strategy to deal with these challenges overtime.

I would even argue that strong interpersonal and cross cultural communication skills are also required for graduates to succeed over time in 2017 due to the fact that we now belong to the world economy. Being able to interact with others will prove to be an indispensable skillset for millenniums to have because it will be a commodity. As more automation is introduced in the workforce, we are going to find ourselves relying more on these systems yet leadership will do business as usual, interpersonally.   

We live in a society that is fast paced, driven by expertise and hard work, where investors want to get immediate return over their capital investments so that more innovation is then infused back in the workforce in order to maximize profit, even if your job is at stake regardless of your work ethic. If we ignore how technology is evolving in our industries, we run the risk of putting ourselves out of business before the first quarter!

Where is Kodak today? Do you remember CompUSA? I don’t believe that the employees who worked for these companies were all incompetent. I am also skeptical that they may have all been lazy and therefore their mother companies either ceased to exist or significantly reduced their operations. Maybe there was another reason for why they all lost their positions within the American corporate world. To me, the differentiator that has made them move from a leader to being a player or no player in the American business landscape was how they calculated rates of automation in their own industries overtime.

A college graduate must understand this reality not after years working for Amazon but while they are in high school. As a parent, you must tell your kids that life today is in many respects more difficult than life was for you as our economy now has more people competing for positions, less jobs available and has an increasing amount of automation impacting these former dynamics which can only result in one inevitable outcome — potential unemployment for those who aren’t experts in their field of study or who have poor work ethic and ignore the predictable changes that automation will bring to their industries.

I may appear to be overly cautious about the systemic side effects of innovation in the American workforce sometimes but I find it difficult to believe that my concerns for the sustainability of small town living and progress for the middle class isn’t grounded in sound principles of what makes companies successful overtime. Perhaps if companies like Sears and Borders were more sensitive to the automation that was occurring at Wal-Mart and Amazon, they would still be with us today.

We live in a world market by change and automation. Failing to compute its impacts on our long-term economic sustainability seems juvenile to me. We need to be proactive and increase our awareness of the inevitable impacts of automation so we can keep achieving the American dream.