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Up until recently, A.I. still seemed like that thing that dystopian movies like The Matrix scared us with. Many of us thought A.I. could be a threat, but it seemed like something we would never actually see happen. Kinda how we thought about Donald Trump in the summer of 2016.

But little by little, A.I., and its even more creepily named partner, Machine Learning, have become reality. Deep Blue begat Watson begat Alpha Go. I.B.M.’s Watson also sired that chatbot that you thought was a real person when you dealt with the staff at the Hilton last month. And at how many events in the last three months have I used humor and interactive activities to help companies with their “Transformation to A.I.”? (answer: several.)  Should we all be frightened, like Elon Musk? Or should we be confident that A.I. will be our partner, not our replacement… like all those speakers assured you at your company’s recent “Transformation to A.I.” event?

Of course the answer is likely, “it depends what kind of work you do.” Those racists who marched in Charlottesville (none were very fine people) carried signs saying, “you will not replace us.” I couldn’t help but think: a lot of those angry white men are being replaced, by technology. By machines or A.I. at work. And by vibrators at home.

I assumed that more creative fields like comedy writing, event moderating and team-coaching field were safe, that I could just chuckle when Jim Stolze brought a cute app to an event and its A.I. analyzed my speaking and called me insincere. But not long ago I was at an event where the author of Phileine Zegt Sorry, Ronald Giphart showed us an A.I. called “Asibot,” that could write in the style of famous authors. Suddenly, Pep zegt Sorry. As in, “Sorry… but W.T.F. is going on?” In Helsinki at the Nordic Business Forum, we heard a beautiful piece of music created by an A.I. called Aiva. And when Boom Chicago’s new show, The Future is Here… And it’s Slightly Annoying), opens next year, it will debut a joke-making A.I. Okay, now it’s personal.

But it’s easy to fear what we don’t quite understand. In Helsinki I also heard Andrew McAfee talk about Alpha Go, Google’s A.I. that beat a human champion at the oh-so-hard-to-master game, Go. Andrew described a famous (in certain nerdy Google and/or Go circles) moment where Alpha Go made a move that every human player knew was a bad, suicidal move. Famous Game 2, Move 37. Chatrooms and D & D games everywhere dropped what they were doing to talk about Google’s folly, that they had created an A.I. that couldn’t even handle the basics of Go.

Of course Alpha Go went on to win the game. Turns out that an A.I. can see so many possible moves and outcomes, it’s like looking into the future. And what seems foolish to a mere human, might be brilliant if you can see how it turns out in the future. Fellow comic book nerds: yes, it’s just like how Dr Strange probably wasn’t crazy when he gave the Time Stone to Thanos in Infinity War. Everyone else… I’m sorry, I don’t have an analogy for you.

So maybe fearing A.I. is like thinking Alpha Go screwed up. Not fully seeing the possibilities of A.I. limits our ability to predict the outcome. Fear of A.I. colors what we see in our mind’s eye.

Pep Rosenfeld

PepPep Rosenfeld

As Director of Creative Content, Pep does it all: He’s a high level event host & facilitator, writer, stand-up comedian, public speaker, coach, and developer of innovative corporate programs. A co-founder of Boom Chicago, Pep’s passion is using comedy to make hard-to-communicate messages land and stick, as featured In his 2012 TED talk, ‘Fight, Flight or Make Your Opponent Laugh.’ Pep hosts events like TEDx Amsterdam, The Next Web Conference, The Nordic Business Forum, and the Spin Awards to rave reviews, and he was nominated for an Emmy for his writing on America’s long-running television show, Saturday Night Live.