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What Marketers Can Learn About AI From Chess

In high stakes competitive chess, there’s a gaming style called “Freestyle” which is just as “ditch-the-rulebook” as it sounds. The best players are called “centaurs” and although these particular centaurs aren’t half-human/half-horse, their makeup runs along the same logic. 

Who are Centaurs?

Centaurs are great chess players who use AI to make themselves better. The AI isn’t playing chess for them. Instead, they’re sort of riding on top of AI (kind of like the human half of the centaur body, get it?) They use artificial intelligence to help guide their moves. The AI brings insights that a human brain can’t calculate. The key is getting players to trust it. U.S grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura reportedly struggled with Freestyle chess due to his skepticism over Rybka, a top chess engine. He claimed, “I use my brain, because it’s better than Rybka on six out of seven days of the week.” Turns out, he was wrong. 

A centaur is also a better player than just the AI would be, because they’re bringing their human insights and creativity to it. Centaurs understand the limitations of machines. AI can offer opening moves and suggestions along the way, but it’s up to the human to make the call: what is the best move against this particular opponent at this particular point in the game? Artificial intelligence can’t always account for that. 

Centaurs are a great example of what John Prial calls “intelligence augmentation.” Prial, of George Partners and also an advisor at SoloSegment, had a fascinating podcast episode recently where he talked about practical AI. Prial makes a strong case that what is needed is not AI but IA – intelligence augmentation – that guides the process. 

Augment Your Intelligence

We’d love it if our machines were omniscient enough to be able to understand, evaluate and respond in ways that were effective without humans having to be involved. But this notion of “general intelligence” is one we’re years, if not decades away from. So let’s think about how we can apply the technology in ways that can augment the decision making ability of humans. Maybe that’s augmenting within the company, or augmenting our prospects’ abilities to make decisions.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the complexity of the data, the “gee whiz” nature of the technology, that we’re often thinking way too big about what AI can do and instead should be thinking in a relatively targeted way about what AI can do for us. As I’ve said before, “AI won’t steal your job; smart people who put AI to work will.”

Freestyle chess amplifies human skill. “Centaurs” demonstrate the advantages that come from that amplification every day. So the question I’d ask is what do you need amplified? Because you can decide to ride AI to success. Or you can end up looking like a horse’s ass. 

Use applied AI to convert your customers at way higher rates. Check out SoloSegment’s tech solutions.

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Tim Peter

Tim Peter built his first website in 1995 and loves that he still gets to do that every day. Tim has spent almost two decades figuring out where customers are, how they interact with brands online, and delivering those customers to his clients’ front door. These efforts have generated billions of dollars in revenue and reduced costs. Tim works with client organizations to build effective teams focused on converting browsers to buyers and building their brand and business. He helps those companies discover how marketing, technology, and analytics tie together to drive business results. He doesn't get excited because of the toys or tech. He gets excited because of what it all means for the bottom line. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. He is a member of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization (SEMPO), HSMAI, and the Digital Analytics Association. Tim Peter’s recent client work covers a wide range of digital marketing activities including developing digital and mobile marketing strategies, creating digital product roadmaps, assessing organizational capabilities, and conducting vendor evaluations for diverse clients including major hospitality companies, real estate brands, SaaS providers, and marketing agencies. Prior to launching Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011, he worked with the world’s largest hotel franchisor, the world’s premier independent luxury hotel representation firm, and a major financial services firm, developing various award-winning products and services for his customers. Tim can be reached at tim@timpeter.com or by phone at 201-305-0055.

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