Tuesday, 22 February 2011
This is a guest post from Just A Guy Thing.
With past demonstrations, IBM has shown that they can create machines that can beat humans at chess, and most recently, trivia. Which is fun to watch, but doesn't serve too much of a purpose for people that aren't interested in recreational chess or trivia. Of course, creating a machine that excels at chess or trivia isn't IBM's end game. Their goal is to create a machine that can mine through data to provide useful answers to most any sort of problem. So these applications in the media are simply a means to an end.
As long as they're tooling around with different applications, let's find one for people who love money, which is just about everyone. Can IBM create a machine that can clean house among the best poker players in the world? If Watson can move through terabytes of data to answer cleverly-worded trivia questions, then surely it can analyze cards and betting patterns to render the human mind obsolete when it comes to sitting at a card table, no?
Not really. As this Slate article conveys, machines can kick ass at poker when there are only two participants, but what are the odds that two people will be playing head-to-head for an extended time? Not great. The technologoy isn't their to measure the behavior of the participants. However, that doesn't mean it can't be done, and it doesn't mean that great minds aren't working on that exact problem. It turns out that tendencies in a game of poker mirror closely those in financial markets and auctions. So the poker problem could be applied to a lot of high-dollar applications.
So the machines will probably end up taking us in poker as well. What does that mean for you? Not much, unless you're going to allow players to sit down with a laptop and let the computer do the work for them? And if you are, then you're probably the biggest sucker at the table.