Fairfax Tech Column

Fairfax Tech Column

28.6.2019 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 152


I remember growing up playing the board game Monopoly. It was as much a psychological experiment with family and friends as it was a game. The analysis started when the tokens were chosen. Battleship – cutthroat. Boot – grudge. Car – outgoing and passionate. Hat – introverted and strategic. The Iron – toilers. Dog – trustworthy. Thimble – practical and sensitive. Wheelbarrow – tough. The next step was the selection of the banker – the controlling personalities are the first to put their hand up. Once the game started, the real character traits quickly showed through. Who showed compassion and who went for the jugular? And, most importantly in terms of character assessment, who cheated! Hasbro, having produced the game since 1933, estimate that almost half of the players attempt to cheat during a Monopoly game. Last year it prompted Hasbro to release a cheaters version of the game where cheating is actually encouraged.

In the latest move from Hasbro, we are witness to a small insight into the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It may, at first, seem like a trivial use of sophisticated computing power but it is but a small indicator of where society is headed.

In the latest iteration of Monopoly, a voice activated top hat sits in the middle of the board. This electronic banker controls all transactions through the game such as buying and selling of properties and tracking of bank balances. No actual money changes hands – which means no player can subtly slide some cash from your pile across to their pile! Playing Monopoly with AI sounds like an interesting development, but what else is happening in the world of AI? As much as many people are fearful of computers taking over the world, most of us are interacting with AI every single day.

When you type an address into Google Maps, an incredible number of calculations are performed relating to road conditions and time of day and algorithms are then utilised to give you the optimal route and an unbelievably accurate travel time – helped by mobile phone metadata. None of that would be possible in a timely fashion without AI.

In the world of finance, accuracy and efficiency is critical – along with real-time reporting. AI is used to predict stocks for various portfolios by scanning millions of key data points. Your Superannuation is most likely being helped by AI.

In what many people find just a little creepy, when they use their social media channels or perform online searches, AI builds up more and more information on you so that the ads and feeds that show up are tailored to suit you. All of this information is being curated by AI and once again, the time it would take a human to analyse this volume of information would make it impossible to perform in a timely fashion.

The list goes on. Siri; smart home devices; autonomous cars; online shopping experiences and related customer service; the healthcare industry and so much more. Without the power of AI, companies that we accept as commonplace today would not even exist. Ridesharing applications like Uber and Lyft need to calculate the price of your ride and the shortest possible wait time. All performed with AI. Our mobile phone voice to text services, albeit with sometimes amusing results, uses an incredible amount of computing power and AI is at the core. Even hit songs, such as “Not Easy”, are being influenced by AI although not yet fully written and performed by computers. Don’t count it out though.

Tell me if you would like your own ‘J.A.R.V.I.S.’ from the Iron Man movies controlling your home at ask@techtalk.digital

Mathew Dickerson