Sunday, September 26, 2021

Robots at play

As a kid, I was in love with the game of cricket like how most boys were.  (I had no idea what girls thought about cricket--we didn't talk!)  I particularly liked players who seemed to play for the love of the game and not with the competitive venom that has now become the de facto approach.  Vince Lombardi's "winning is the only thing" has diffused all over the world and into cricket too.

In one of those old-style games, in an important moment in a cricket match between India and the visiting England team, when the visitors were struggling and one of their players had been given out by the umpire, the captain of the Indian team--G.R. Vishwanath--withdrew the appeal, which brought the English player, Ian Botham, back to the game.  He went on to win the match for his team.

The human error in the form of the umpire's decision, the human Vishwanath displaying a view of humanity, and the results on the match made for highly interesting events for the teenager that I was then.

Soon after that, Vishwanath was forced out of the game into retirement.  And when billions of dollars are involved--in contrast to the old days--it is now all about winning, which is the only thing. 

A couple of years ago, when visiting India, I watched on television a few minutes of a match with my father.  I thought a batsmen was out when my father said that they were waiting for the decision by an umpire whose job was to review the play from different camera angles.  A minute or two later came the decision.

It was far from the game that I followed and the game that Vishwanath played.

Baseball, which for a few years appealed to me in this adopted country, has gone a step further with robot umpires

The robots are significantly better than humans in umpiring calls.  But, is that what we humans want?

Meanwhile, robots--artificial intelligence--have completed the tenth symphony that Beethoven started working on but died before he could put that together.  "All he left behind were some musical sketches."

A full recording of Beethoven’s 10th Symphony is set to be released on Oct. 9, 2021, the same day as the world premiere performance scheduled to take place in Bonn, Germany – the culmination of a two-year-plus effort.

In two weeks!

We anticipate some pushback to this work – those who will say that the arts should be off-limits from AI, and that AI has no business trying to replicate the human creative process. Yet when it comes to the arts, I see AI not as a replacement, but as a tool – one that opens doors for artists to express themselves in new ways.

A robot umpire. A robot composer. We already have robot bank tellers.  Robot house cleaners. Robot ... 

Not my idea of humanity. 

Those among us who prefer the old ways will be forced out, I suppose, as Vishwanath was!