Connect with us

Tech

AI is turning us into de facto cyborgs

Published

on

AI is turning us into de facto cyborgs

Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.


Progress in technology and increased levels of private investment in startup AI companies is accelerating, according to the 2021 AI Index, an annual study of AI impact and progress developed by an interdisciplinary team at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, AI is showing up just about everywhere. In recent weeks, there have been stories of how AI is used to monitor the emotional state of cows and pigs, dodge space junk in orbit, teach American Sign Language, speed up assembly lines, win elite crossword puzzle tournaments, assist fry cooks with hamburgers, and enable “hyperautomation.” Soon there will be little left for humans to do beyond writing long-form journalism — until that, too, is replaced by AI. The text generation engine GPT-3 from OpenAI is potentially revolutionary in this regard, leading a New Yorker essay to claim: “Whatever field you are in, if it uses language, it is about to be transformed.”

AI is marching forward, and its wonders are increasingly evident and applied. But the outcome of an AI-forward world is up for debate. While this debate is underway, at present it focuses primarily on data privacy and how bias can negatively impact different social groups. Another potentially greater concern is that we are becoming dangerously dependent on our smart devices and applications. This reliance could lead us to become less inquisitive and more trusting of the information we are provided as accurate and authoritative.

Or that, like in the animated film WALL-E, we will be glued to screens, distracted by mindless entertainment, literally and figuratively fed empty calories without lifting a finger while an automated economy carries on without us. In this increasingly plausible near-future scenario, people will move through life on autopilot, just like our cars. Or perhaps we have already arrived at such a place.

Caption: Humans on the Axiom spaceship in Pixar’s WALL-E; Source

Welcome to Humanity 2.0

If smartphone use is any indication, there is cause for worry. Nicolas Carr wrote in The Wall Street Journal about research suggesting our intellect weakens as our brain grows dependent on phone technology. Likely the same could be said for any information technology where content flows our way without us having to work to learn or discover on our own. If that’s true, then AI applications, which increasingly present content tailored to our specific interests, could create a self-reinforcing syndrome that not only locks us into our information bubbles through algorithmic editing, but also weakens our ability to engage in critical thought by spoon-feeding us what we already believe.

Tristan Green argues that humans are already cyborgs, human-machine hybrids that are heavily dependent on information flowing from the Internet. During a weekend without access to this constant connection: “I found myself having difficulty thinking. By Sunday evening I realized that I use the almost-instant connection I have with the internet to augment my mental abilities almost constantly. … I wasn’t aware of how much I rely on the AI-powered internet as a performance aid.” Which is perhaps why Elon Musk believes we will need to augment our brains with instantaneous access to the Internet for humans to effectively compete with AI, this being the initial rationale behind his Neuralink brain-machine interface company.

The AI revolution could be different

I’ve read many analyses from AI pundits arguing that AI will be no different from other technology innovations, such as the transition from the horse economy to the automobile. Usually these arguments are made in the context of AI’s impact on jobs and concludes there will be social displacement in the short-term for some but long-term growth for the collective whole. The thinking is that new industries will birth new jobs and malleable people will adapt.

But there is a fundamental difference with the AI revolution. Previous instances involved replacing brute force with labor-saving automation. AI is different in that it outsources more than physical labor, it also outsources cognition, which is thinking and decision making. Shaun Nichols, professor in the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University, said in a recent panel discussion on AI: “We already outsource ethically important decisions to algorithms. We use them for kidney transplants, air traffic control, and to determine who gets treated first in emergency rooms.” As stated by the World Economic Forum, we are progressively subject to decisions with the assistance of — or even taken by — AI systems.

Are we losing our agency?

Algorithms now shape our thoughts and increasingly make decisions on our behalf. Wittingly or not, AI is doing so much for us that some are dubbing it an “intelligence revolution,” which forces the question, have we already become de facto cyborgs, and if so, do we still have agency? Agency is the power of humans to think for ourselves and act in ways that shape our experiences and life trajectories. Yet, the algorithms driving search and social media platforms, book and movie recommendations, regularly shape what billions of people read and see. If this was thoughtfully curated for our betterment, it might be okay. But as film director Martin Scorsese states, their purpose is only to increase consumption.

It seems we have already outsourced agency to algorithms designed to increase corporate well-being. This may not be overtly malicious, but it is hardly benign. Our thoughts are being molded, either by our existing beliefs that are reinforced by algorithms inferring our interests, or through intentional or unintentional biases from the various information platforms. Which is to say that our ability to perform critical thinking is both constrained and shaped by the very systems meant to aid and hopefully stimulate our thinking. We are entering a recursive loop where thinking coalesces into ever tighter groupings — the often-discussed polarization — that reduce variability and hence diversity of opinion.

It is as if we are the subjects in a grand social science experiment, with the resulting human opinion clusters determined by the AI-powered inputs and the outputs discerned by machine learning. This is qualitatively different from an augmentation of intelligence and instead augers a merger of humans and machines that is creating the ultimate group think.

It has never been easy to confront large societal problems, but they will become more challenging if humanity continues the path of outsourcing its thinking to algorithms that are not in our collective best interests. All of which begs the question, do we control AI technology or are we already being controlled by the technology?

Gary Grossman is the Senior VP of Technology Practice at Edelman and Global Lead of the Edelman AI Center of Excellence.

VentureBeat

VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact.

Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more

Become a member

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tech

Incorta nabs $120M to power business data analytics

Published

on

Incorta

Where does your enterprise stand on the AI adoption curve? Take our AI survey to find out.


Incorta, an analytics platform designed to speed up data ingestion, this week announced that it raised $120 million in funding contributed by Prysm Capital, with participation from National Grid Ventures, GV, Kleiner Perkins, M12, Sorenson Capital, Telstra Ventures, Ron Wohl, and Silicon Valley Bank (in the form of a credit facility). CEO Scott Jones says that the capital, which brings Incorta’s total raised to $195 million, will be used to expand go-to-market operations and meet demand for Incorta’s analytics products.

According to a recent IDC study, 70% of CEOs acknowledge that their organization needs to become more data-driven, with 87% saying that becoming more agile and integrated is a top priority over the next five years. Meanwhile, new research from Ventana Research highlights where companies struggle most with data analytics. Fifty-five percent of organizations report that the most time-consuming task in analytics is preparing the data. According to Ventana, 25% of organizations combine more than 20 data sources in their data preparation activities and 39% uses more than 104.

Incorta, which was founded in 2014 by Oracle veterans Hichem Sellami, Klaus Fabian, Matthew Halliday, and Osama Elkady, offers a solution that aims to help companies to acquire, enrich, analyze, and act upon business data. It can make upwards of tens of billions of rows of data “analytics-ready” without the need to pre-aggregate, reshape or transform the data in any way, connecting to enterprise apps, data streams, and data files via over 240 integrations.

Above: Incorta’s management dashboard.

Image Credit: Incorta

“The unprecedented events of the past year highlight the importance of modern data analytics in today’s business environment — platforms and tools like Incorta that deliver data to users directly without costly systems and processes like data warehousing … severely limiting speed and agility,” Jones said in a press release. “After hitting a major inflection point in 2020, Incorta is now scaling fast to meet global demand for modern data analytics in the cloud.”

Data transformation

Ninety-five percent of businesses cite the need to manage unstructured data as a problem for their business. Problematically, 80% to 90% of the data companies generate today is unstructured, according to CIO.

Incorta addresses this by offering an enriched metadata map combined with smart query routing. The result is a repository for analytics and machine learning — one that can be run on-premises, hosted by a cloud provider, or delivered as a fully-managed cloud service. Incorta can run as a complete standalone data and analytics pipeline or as a component within a larger analytics and business intelligence tech portfolio, depending on an organization’s data analytics needs.

“Companies have an increasing need to gain insight and make decisions from data with speed and agility, and Incorta provides this mission-critical solution with a differentiated offering,” Muhammad Mian, cofounder and partner at Prysm Capital, said in a statement. “Prysm is excited to partner with an exceptional management team to support the growth of a product that is at the intersection of attractive long-term trends: the explosion of data, digital and cloud transformation, and business intelligence modernization.”

Incorta’s latest round of fundraising, a series D, comes after a year in which nearly 60% of the company’s new revenue came from organic expansion with existing customers across media and entertainment, social, high tech, ecommerce, and retail markets. Incorta recently launched Incorta Mobile, a data analytics experience for mobile devices, as well as partnerships with Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, eCapital, and and Tableau. And it established a footprint North America, the Middle East, U.K., and Japan.

VentureBeat

VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact.

Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more

Become a member

Continue Reading

Tech

Crossplay will be the key to the $42B double-A market

Published

on

Mechs need bayonets, too.

Where does your enterprise stand on the AI adoption curve? Take our AI survey to find out.


Binary is back in the video game industry — not for coding, but for development strategy, with the focus being on super-hits or indie games, with not much in between. Launch the stores or subscription services on any of your consoles right now, and you’ll find the latest menu of triple-A fare gracing the homepage or independent critical darlings that have found their niche audience, but not much in between. An industry that pulled in nearly $140 billion in 2020 alone has neglected one of its most substantial markets: the middle.

A swell of middle market games often follows a new console launch, and now we are at the beginning of a new wave which represents a $42 billion opportunity. (For the purpose of my thesis here, I am referring to games that cost $9-$35.) From 2008 to 2012, iOS went mainstream, and tentpole triple-A games ruled the roost. Meanwhile, the “niche” middle market vanished from the retail shelf as direct downloads on consoles and Steam took root. Since 2012, free-to-play emerged on mobile with the “niche” or “genre” titles that used to comprise the middle market, and the development of HD games became exceedingly expensive.

The huge games audience has established diverse tastes as evidenced by the success of Steam and the introduction of the Epic Games Store. The larger publishers do not see a enough shareholder return to justify the lower budgets and eventually revenues, even when a title is a success. Indies can’t afford to lose focus on their own primary platform, and often lack sufficient capital, know-how, and experience shipping to know how to make the necessary investment needed to successfully publish their title.

Above: Mechs need bayonets, too, in Iron Harvest, one of Deep Silver’s double-A games.

Image Credit: Deep Silver

Who will succeed in this category? We already have proof that the mid-market can be very successful, with the likes of Devolver, Maximum, Deep Silver, THQ Nordic, Jagex, etc. The better question might be what development strategy will drive outsized success — and I believe the answer is crossplay titles. Among Us is a great example of games with mid-tier pricing, enhanced by cross-play.

Not only does the middle market constitute the most rational place to invest from a strategic standpoint, but it also represents one of the most creatively fertile landscapes in the industry. Oftentimes, mid-market development teams are smaller, with 20-40 strong employees, working with budgets that amount to only a fraction of the budget of a triple-A title.

Blockbuster games require a massive investment of both time and money, creating anxious publishers that need huge returns with each and every title to appease shareholder expectations. On the other end of the spectrum are indies that have little funding—and most often modest returns—with creators that prioritize art over broad (or sometimes even narrow) appeal. Between the bloated environment of the megahits and the arthouse independents, there are slews of great games waiting to be made … and played, right in the middle.

Targeting the middle market opens up a whole new world for publishers, allowing them to focus on passionate fans of genres residing outside of the triple-A bell curve. Double-A games do not need to appeal to everyone and can instead focus specifically on dedicated audiences. By avoiding the hit-driven publishing model, a middle market publisher can make novel, distinctive and creative games while still managing consistent profits.

PUBG Season 4.

Above: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds didn’t start as a game but as a mod for Arma 3.

Image Credit: The PUBG Corp.

At the same time, middle market titles can and often do become huge hits. Battle royale didn’t come from a triple-A game. Instead, it came from modders like Brendan Greene, or Dean Hall who had the creative freedom to paint outside the lines and make an engaging, compelling game without the creatively oppressive requirement of appealing to massive audiences. When authentic creativity is freed from having to drive massive financial returns, that is when the true magic often happens.

While much of what I’ve said so far has been true for years, there are two factors that make the middle market especially lucrative at this moment. First, the excitement surrounding the launch of a new console generation and the rise of PC games only exacerbates boom-or-bust publishing, leaving an even more pronounced gap between triple-A and indie games.

But more important, the emergence of crossplay technology makes it possible to uncover significantly larger audiences. The math is simple: games that allow people to play with their friends across any platform will have a larger built-in audience than those that do not. Perhaps more importantly, crossplay connectivity allows for broader, more frequent and more authentic human connections, elements that are particularly important during this period of pandemic isolation.

Based on this, it is clear that crossplay is the greatest force multiplier to come to the video game industry since the second controller.

So far, crossplay enablement has been limited to big budget titles, but its power will be even more pronounced as it enters the middle market. Multiplayer games count on substantial player bases, which triple-A games can easily generate. But for smaller games, that player base is much harder to acquire, especially when players are spread across as many as four separate platforms. By combining the player bases from all of these platforms, and implementing the crossplay technology right from the start of a title’s life cycle, far more games will reach that tipping point of sustainability and profit.

Zorya

Above: Zorya is an upcoming crossplay game.

Image Credit: TLM Partners

The capability to play with friends across consoles has created a real need and expectation among gamers, one that has increased user engagement and subsequently resulted in higher impact on in-game monetization. Take Epic Games: with its implementation of crossplay in Fortnite, the developer and publisher found that the average monthly revenue-per-user who crossplayed its battle royale game was 365% higher than non-crossplayers. So what does this all mean? Well, simply that more engagement with crossplay gives developers the opportunity and freedom to remain creative and continue launching new content for players to enjoy on a regular basis.

Audiences are going to look for even more personal and diverse content as we get deeper into this console generation, and the current $42 billion mid-market opportunity is only likely to grow. By offering a larger number of distinct titles, publishers targeting the middle market will be able to command the attention of triple A-level audiences while avoiding the same risks assumed by big budget developers. Add crossplay functionality into the mix, and you have the best of both worlds: creative, engaging mid-budget games attracting huge potential audiences and driving outsized financial returns.

Jake Hawley is the Founder and CEO of TLM Partners Inc., a technology and executive outsourcing company whose clients include 2K Games, EA, Microsoft, Rockstar Games, Skydance, Sony, Starbreeze, Nomadic VR, RedPill VR, and Warner Bros.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

Become a member

Continue Reading

Tech

Magic: The Gathering’s Adventures in the Forgotten Realms delves into Dungeons

Published

on

Magic: The Gathering's Adventures in the Forgotten Realms delves into Dungeons

Where does your enterprise stand on the AI adoption curve? Take our AI survey to find out.


I once feared Magic: The Gathering would kill Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast ended up saving it, and now, the granddaddy of trading card games is heading to the Forgotten Realms of Faerûn — and its Dungeons.

Today, Wizards of the Coast is showing off more cards from the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set, which launches July 8 on Magic: The Gathering — Arena and July 23 in paper. In addition to bringing the likes of Drizzt Do’Urden, Tiamat, and Lolth the Spider Queen to Magic, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms introduces Dungeons to the card game.

Senior game designer James Wyatt (who also worked on two of my favorite D&D books, the 3rd Edition City of the Spider Queen and Draconomicon) and worldbuilding designer Meris Mullaley showed off a handful of the set’s cards to the press last week. And the three Dungeons and their Venture mechanic showed how the Magic team is approaching fitting Realmslore into the set.

Dungeon delving

Above: The dungeons of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

The Dungeons are adaptations of existing D&D modules and campaigns that have appeared in 5th Edition (among others):

“Whenever you have a card that tells you to Venture into the Dungeon, what you do is you pick one of these Dungeons, and you put a marker at the very top room. And every time you Venture, then you can move down a level — farther into the Dungeon — by one room,” Wyatt said in a video briefing.

Each player has their own Dungeons, so they could be exploring the Lost Mine of Phandelver at the same time (so, two people could be doing so in a 1-on-1 game, or three of four players could be in a Commander match). You can have one, two, or all three active at once. When you Venture, you could either go deeper into one or begin exploring another.

These Dungeons offer choices. You choose which one you want to delve into and which path you take. The Tomb of Annihilation has you sacrificing cards, artifacts, and life to gain a horrific benefit (which fits the theme of the lich Acererak’s deathtrap). I also find adding this dungeon interesting because Acererak was a card in Spellfire, which was D&D‘s failed answer to Magic back in the 1990s.

Halaster’s dungeon gives you more choices, but it takes longer to get through it (as befits the numerous levels of Undermountain).

“If you choose Dungeon of the Mad Mage, you’re really in this dungeon for a long time exploring the holes of Undermountain,” Wyatt said. “You need seven Ventures to get all the way through, but you have lots of choices to make as you go along the way.”

Dungeons are a neat way to capture the flavor of D&D within Magic. Undermountain has been a mainstay of the Realms since The Ruins of Undermountain boxed set in 1991; since then, TSR or Wizards of the Coast has published several campaign sets, adventures, game books, and even a board game about these halls.

The Magic team is using its existing combination of creatures, artifacts, and spells to take advantage of these Dungeons.

FR Venture Dungeon cards

Above: These cards work with Dungeons, giving you benefits or helping you get through them.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

“There are a variety of cards that interact with Venture in interesting ways, including all the way down to Common [rarity] with things like Shortcut Seeker, hitting that classic trope of ‘look, there’s a trapdoor under the rug,’” Wyatt said. “Venture is a strong theme across all rarities, so there’s lots of opportunity for players to experience the thrill of exploring Dungeons.”

I asked if the Dungeons had special loot attached to them, such as a Sphere of Annihilation for the Tomb of Annihilation. A Wizards spokesperson on the call said we’d have to wait and see on that.

Give me land, lots of land

Another way to capture the flavor of the Forgotten Realms is with lands. The Basic lands all have some art or text reference to Faerûn, even if it’s not obvious at first glance.

What’s really interesting are some of the alternate land cards. One example is Evolving Wilds, a Magic staple. This treatment captures the style of classic D&D modules such as The Keep on the Borderlands (it even has the lavender-ish coloring).

FR lands

Above: The Basic lands reference the Realms in their art and their text.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

The set will have nine of these lands, eight of them with new names.

“We’re calling this the Classic Module land frame. These are borderless module lands featuring art that is reminiscent of the cover art from classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules,” Mullaley said. “They’re all lands. There’s nine of them. This one is Evolving Wilds, but the other lands are new, with names that were created to sound like adventures.”

Seeing some of the Basic lands did raise a concern. The Forest doesn’t scream Forgotten Realms to me, and the text doesn’t add any flavor; it looks like it could fit into any other Magic set.

“We did a full concept push for this set, like we do for any Magic set. Obviously there’s already a ton of art exploring what the Forgotten Realms looks like. There’s not necessarily a ton of of art or color art establishing the look of specific geographical regions like the Evermoors, or the Spine of the World, or the High Forest,” Wyatt said. “So all of these lands — almost all of these lands — do actually point to specific places that we developed in the world guide, though I think that forest right there is an example of elven architecture, rather than a specific place, so that was also one of the areas we explored in the world guide.

“If I’m remembering right, the cycles of lands include one of each land type in the Underdark, one that shows a settlement of various peoples of the Realms, one that is just a wilderness area, and one that includes some ruins of ancient civilizations. So there’s definitely a lot of Realms flavor, sometimes not obvious in there, but in there.”

Who’s the set for?

FR card treatments

Above: Card treatments for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms include borderless art cards, special art cards that look like D&D stat blocks, and illustrations that hark back to 1st and 2nd Edition styles.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

As Mullaley and Wyatt showed off this batch of cards, I wondered (as did others on the briefing) who this set was for. Is it for Magic players, enticing them into something new? Is it for Realms fans who Wizards wants to push into Magic? Or folks like me, who enjoy both of Wizards’ big properties?

“I think that for someone who is familiar with Magic and not familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, it will be like encountering a completely new plane that we’ve created for the first time for a Magic set,” Mullaley said. “It’s for Standard play, so it’s built to work with all of the other sets in Standard. And while we created a few new mechanics that were kind of inspired by Dungeons & Dragons play for this set, for the most part, it plays like a Magic set, and it’s got the creature types you’ve come to expect and be the Standard exciting Magic gameplay, and the flavor of the world happens to be Dungeons & Dragons.

“So we’re hoping that, as you’re playing this, what might be a deep cut reference for a friend of yours might be something that sparks a bit of curiosity for you.”

One card that worries me is a Legendary character, the Dragonborn knight Nadaar, Selfless Paladin. They’re a character created for this set. But why would you need to make characters when you have official material going back to the “Grey Box” set of 1987 and Realms fans want characters they’ve come to love over the years, such as The Simbul, the dastardly wizard Manshoon, or even gods such as Bhaal?

“Hopefully, we can do both,” Wyatt said on mixing known and new characters together. “We have a lot of goals, putting Legends into a set, including hitting nostalgia, but also hitting various diversity milestones, trying to make sure that that we’re reflecting our audience and the game as it is now, not as it was 25 years ago. So, yeah, we definitely trying to do both.”

Yesterday, Magic head designer Mark Rosewater posted a blog with a number of hints and teases that addresses my concerns. These include:

  • a Legendary creature that makes a Legendary Hamster creature token (this must be Minsc & Boo, the beloved duo from the Baldur’s Gate games)
  • a card that creates a Legendary creature token named Vecna (while Vecna is more associated with Greyhawk than the Realms, the lich is a popular figure in the D&D community and was part of Critical Role’s story)
  • a creature with a death trigger that makes an equipment token (this could be a Gelatinous Cube, with the remains of an adventurer inside it)
  • Spend this mana only to cast Dragon spells or activate abilities of Dragons (this could be from an Orb of Dragonkind)
  • Creature — Bird Bear (this must be an Owlbear)
  • Creature — Elf Spider (this must be a Drider, the drow that Lolth curses to be part elf, part spider, and all horror)
  • Legendary Creature — Devil God (this must be Asmodeus, who’s been playing with the Realms for some time now)
  • Legendary Creature — Beholder

Also yesterday, Wizards of the Coast put out a list of folks who will have card previews and the date they’re showing them off.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

Become a member

Continue Reading

Trending