Let The Games Begin

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Perhaps one of the most famous forms of artificial intelligence to come into people’s homes was, Watson. If you are familiar with the popular quiz show Jeopardy, you will remember Watson. Named after IBM’s first CEO and industrialist, Thomas J. Watson, the computer contestant went up against Jeopardy’s two all time- highest earning players, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

The challenge was to see if a machine could out-think humans in an actual question and answer contest. Watson walked, or more accurately rolled away with the grand prize earning of $1 million dollars. We’ve witnessed AI on TV in science fiction movies and our favorite weekly shows, yet when it enters our home we are still duly impressed. It’s the everyday duties and gadgets that we rely on to make living more convenient and fun.

The other day when I had to have my car towed, naturally I didn’t expect the driver to show up with a little robot buddy, but I wasn’t surprised to discover that even the local tow service had a tool or two that is tied back to artificial intelligence. It’s insinuating itself into our lives in the most subtle of ways. AI can deliver a better quality of performance, which potentially makes for a better life.

When it comes to games, there is a logical sequence to winning. Who in this day and age hasn’t been whooped by a video game? Games are the perfect playing field for a computer. Keep in mind though that humans always want to feel superior, so the games are programmed not to win if certain moves are made by the human. If these weren’t programmed into the application, games would likely beat the daylights out of the player at every turn along the way. What fun is that?

Nonetheless, innovative technology, devised by humans, keeps coming up with more and more ways to put human intelligence several steps behind that of our mechanical counterparts. This may challenge us and possibly take power away from us at the same time. For example, a simple thing like when we play computer games. Over time our own human algorithms are altered to accommodate the moves necessary when playing a video game. Scientists watch, study and use the information gathered.

This adds to the efficiency and essentially effectuates the software within the game to “understand” the players’ ability. This information is employed to get better and better artificial intelligence programmed into the game. It is used to study human behavior for purposes of marketing and manipulation. The name of the real game is; sell more video games. Harmless? I don’t know. Time is the answer to that question. If this sounds too futuristic imagine what the concept of a simple game boy would have sounded like to someone in 1955?

Studies have shown that video games do change our brain. Just like any learned activity, reading, doing math, learning a sport, playing music, and so on, affects the physical structure of the brain. Similar to other parts of the body, we build matter when we exercise an area. A powerful combination of concentration and rewarding surges of neurotransmitters create and strengthen neural circuits that build brain matter. Could competing against computers make us even smarter?

Some of our innate skills are enhanced by playing video games. We are taking on challenges that most of us run into regularly throughout the day, big and small. Even so the skills we learn from playing against technology help us deal with situations that come up in life that may call for the same responses.

Studies have shown that video games foster: Quick thinking, fast analysis and decision making, strategy and anticipation of events, situational awareness, hand eye coordination and spatial skills, mapping, memory retention, pattern recognition and the list goes on.

In the process of making machines smarter, we may naturally be making ourselves smarter. There’s a turn of events many of us hadn’t considered. Hey, good news. We won’t have to worry about artificial intelligence taking over the world after all. Let the games begin.

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