How long until the AI World Cup comes along?

Early days, but they’ve already learnt to dive…

WE ARE on the brink of the digital revolution. Some might say we are already in the midst of it. Anyone who has seen the film I, Robot or the UK TV series Humans, will be aware that sci-fi writers have been predicting the onset of Artificial Intelligence for years. It’s been creeping upon us and anyone who dares question it is considered to be a luddite.

We all benefit from technology – just look at how many devices you have to charge-up every weekend. But we are in danger of teching ourselves out of useful existence. While we can all marvel at the possibilities that new inventions can bring us, you sometimes have to slow down and ask yourself what will people do for a living in the future. Are we, in fact, creating a jobless world?

There’s many a sci-fi movie that paints a picture of a world where only a few people live enriched lives within a heavily-guarded compound and the rest – deformed, Dickensian characters suffering an existence in semi-darkness and poverty, are kept at bay by security fences. Some might argue that this already represents the state of parts of the world, and there are social scientists who claim that Europe will in fact become “Brazilianised”, with only a few people enjoying any kind of wealth or employment.

What has this got to do with football, you might ask? This week, a UK local authority announced that they have bought a robot to deal with consumers. She’s called Amelia and she looks very realistic.

Although the local authority in question claims it is not a move to wipe-out jobs, it is no coincidence that they are under intense pressure to cut costs.

This is sure to set a trend that will snowball. And that’s where football comes in. Will there be a time when some bright spark, doubtless working in Switzerland, comes up with the idea of an AI World Cup? Why not? We have World Cups for everything these days and why not create the perfect World Cup? Come to think of it, given the problems faced in France at the moment, why not create AI fans?

The potential for AI football is limitless. Just think, you could create Pele at his peak, Puskas, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Garrincha, Platini (the player, that is), Sindelar – even Steve Bloomer! Just imagine all of these talents on the pitch at the same time.

A whole industry could spring up around it. Programmers, statisticians, tacticians, artists…the list goes on. And the players could have all the positives of the human being minus the bad bits. That’s good news, for who would want to get a karate kick from a robot called AI Cantona (or is it oh-ah Cantona)?

Players that were great but flawed could suddenly become just great. The AI version of George Best would just be an outstanding player with no need for a constant stream of beauty queens. AI Joey Barton would arguably be a very good player. Perhaps even the AI Balotelli would be a true great? Maybe that’s asking too much.

And like most areas of technology, the cost savings would be incredible. The initial outlay would be significant, but there would be no wages, no fine and suspensions, no need for a huge car park for those marquee cars so favoured by millionaire footballers.

It could be, however, that you would need to create AI managers. The real stars would be the programmers and developers that would manage these robo-players, but how intriguing would it be to have AI Herbert Chapman, AI Brian Clough, AI Sir Matt Busby and AI Rinus Michels sitting in the dugouts?

Don’t like the sound of this? Neither do I. This has been a tongue-in-cheek exercise, but the world is fast changing (just ask Amelia) and AI is only at the start of its journey. But it is no longer science fiction fantasy.  Anyone seen Sonny the NS-5, by the way? I hear he’s pretty fast.

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