You’ll Soon Have Centaurs in Your Company

Actually, you will become one. I’m not talking about the half-man-half-horse, but instead the half-man/half-artificial intelligence (AI) agent.

These type of “centaurs” were named by Garry Kasparov, one of the world’s top chess players. In 1997 he was beaten in a match by IBM’s Deep Blue computer for the first time. After that, he said that the chess world shouldn’t just look at this as man against computers, but instead suggested that man should work with computers. He started a new sport called Free Style Chess, and coined the phrase centaurs for the man/computer teams. It turns out that centaurs are the best; they beat both man-only and computer-only opponents.

In the workplace, there’s been an ongoing debate in recent years about robots and AI taking over from humans. The pessimists say they’ll steal all the jobs causing unemployment and lower incomes, while the optimists (like me) say they’ll lead to better, newer jobs and higher standards of living, like I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

But getting back to Kasparov, I like his man/machine theory and think it applies nicely to the workplace, because really, we are already centaurs to some extent. I drive to work using the Waze GPS that redirects me around accidents and traffic jams. I can’t see the road ahead without it, and it can’t drive my car. But together we make a great team. Tools like Waze are becoming more intelligent every day, and I believe the combination of man/AI will be much more effective than either alone.

AIs will ramp up the possibilities endlessly.  Services like Apple’s Siri , Amazon’s Alexa and Google Now are already giving us a boost of AI in our personal lives. Soon new ideas and apps built on these foundations will be in everyday workplace use making us all much smarter and productive.

We will all be centaurs.

Frank Kenna III
June 15, 2016

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