In high stakes competitive chess, there’s a gaming style called “Freestyle” which is just as “ditch-the-rulebook” as it sounds. The best players are called “centaurs” and although these particular centaurs aren’t half-human/half-horse, their makeup runs along the same logic.
Who are Centaurs?
Centaurs are great chess players who use AI to make themselves better. The AI isn’t playing chess for them. Instead, they’re sort of riding on top of AI (kind of like the human half of the centaur body, get it?) They use artificial intelligence to help guide their moves. The AI brings insights that a human brain can’t calculate. The key is getting players to trust it. U.S grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura reportedly struggled with Freestyle chess due to his skepticism over Rybka, a top chess engine. He claimed, “I use my brain because it’s better than Rybka on six out of seven days of the week.” Turns out, he was wrong.
A centaur is also a better player than just the AI would be because they’re bringing their human insights and creativity to it. Centaurs understand the limitations of machines. AI can offer opening moves and suggestions along the way, but it’s up to the human to make the call: what is the best move against this particular opponent at this particular point in the game? Artificial intelligence can’t always account for that.
Centaurs are a great example of what John Prial calls “intelligence augmentation.” Prial, of George Partners and also an advisor at SoloSegment, had a fascinating podcast episode recently where he talked about practical AI. Prial makes a strong case that what is needed is not AI but IA – intelligence augmentation – that guides the process.
Augment Your Intelligence
We’d love it if our machines were omniscient enough to be able to understand, evaluate and respond in ways that were effective without humans having to be involved. But this notion of “general intelligence” is one we’re years, if not decades away from. So let’s think about how we can apply the technology in ways that can augment the decision-making ability of humans. Maybe that’s augmenting within the company, or augmenting our prospects’ abilities to make decisions.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the complexity of the data, the “gee-whiz” nature of the technology, that we’re often thinking way too big about what AI can do and instead should be thinking in a relatively targeted way about what AI can do for us. As I’ve said before, “AI won’t steal your job; smart people who put AI to work will.”
Freestyle chess amplifies human skill. “Centaurs” demonstrate the advantages that come from that amplification every day. So the question I’d ask is what do you need amplified? Because you can decide to ride AI to success. Or you can end up looking like a horse’s ass.
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