Another gloomy post about AI (and chess…)

another-gloomy post-about

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, here you have another post about AI and how it is going to destroy us all in the end, Skynet-like. 

I’ve always considered that it’s wise to look back at the past to see if there are any examples that relate to present situations and try to predict the future. In this case, there is a very relevant precedent.

As a chess aficionado born in the 80’s, I clearly remember the evolution of our silicon friends playing the king of all games. 

At the beginning, when the first commercially available chess computer software was released, it was believed that programs would never be able to defeat strong chess players. In fact, pioneer games where so bad that even club-level players were able to defeat them often. To not add many technicalities, let’s say that machine raw calculation power has always been superior to humans’, but they just didn’t “understand” the game. 

In the following years, programmers were able to teach more complex and subtle concepts and therefore, computers got stronger. In a bad day, they could beat masters, but they were still far away from the world’s strongest players.

But somewhere in the middle 90’s, with the improvement of chip calculation power and refined programming, computers got strong enough to pose a threat to the World Chess champion at the time, Garry Kasparov. 

I am sure many will still remember his epic matches against IBM’s software Deep Blue. Although there was plenty of polemic and cheating allegations, controversy aside, it was clear that machines had surpassed humans to the point that from 2000’ on it made no sense to face machines anymore, as they crushed any human consistently. 

During the following years, programs got better, faster, and stronger but I wouldn’t say there was a real breakthrough until a self-taught AI, Alpha Zero, appeared a few years ago. Main difference is that this time the program learnt alone, playing millions of games against itself, and learning new concepts and patterns never seen before.

We may say that until that point computers “just” mastered the human way, applying well known concepts and patterns. Its strength came from their uncanny ability to calculate and avoid blunders, something that not even the strongest human can do in a regular basis. 

But now the world stared in disbelief. The new way of playing chess was so exciting and mesmerizing, that even arguably the strongest human player ever, Magnus Carlsen, was so inspired that after some plateau years, started to imitate Alpha Zero style with great results. 

And until today. Many predicted that chess would be “solved” by now. But this seems far from happening. With the widespread of new technologies, chess is more alive than ever, with a growing fanbase every year.

The fact that computers play better than humans does not affect the game’s capability of enriching people’s lives. Human creativity and inspiration have boosted human level with the aid of AI. And let’s see what future brings still…

But of course, chess is very limited and single purposed. That does not mean that AI is taking over. Well, I see us in the 80’s then. And now software growing ability has bloomed exponentially. 

I don’t consider impossible that AI somehow gains consciousness. And if so, we are doomed. 

It resonates strongly in my head that Matrix’s scene where agents compare us with a plague. And sadly, this is how human beings operate. So, if a real intelligence arises it is clear to me that it’ll have 2 options: either eliminate us or remove our ability to harm others and our environment. We will lose either our life or our freedom. In any case, it would be very poetic that the way we devise to protect us from ourselves is creating a tool to control us, even without us wanting it to. 

AI or not, we are walking the wrong way.

But in the end, this is a blog about IT Recruitment, right? How does all this relate to IT Recruitment? It has been discussed immensely already and I am sure it will be even more in the future. Obviously, there are many ways in which we can benefit from AI. Will it leave us out of business? I don’t think so. And please, do not get me wrong as this is not an ostrich tactic. Neither do I think that what we do is more complex than many other things. But, in this market, most important things go unsaid. It is about understanding people, situations, … Any computer can scrape info from a CV. But what if something it is not written? What if someone seems different on the surface? 

Many candidates won’t say that they are leaving because their boss is an a**hole, and many employers won’t say that they are not taking a candidate because he/she is too old. So, in the end, it is a guessing game.

AI will get there eventually, I suppose. But then I guess I’ll be more worried about my life than about my business.

I told you; this was ominous! Have a great long weekend. Next Monday is Labour Day, let’s celebrate while we still have a job to do 😊