Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and…. Football?

Throughout human history, sport has been considered as one of the highest expressions of the pure power, skill of the thinking, moving and breathing beings that we all are. Sport, with all its thrills and spills, passion and spirit, is quintessentially “human”. It therefore seems strange when there is talk of a technological revolution in sport. Where does sophisticated technology fit into the ever-changing equation of skill, luck, and determination that is sport?

There is an argument that the infiltration of technology will somehow take away the unpredictability and thrill that characterises the sporting world. Some fans believe that, in this world of high tech gadgets and futuristic technology, measures must be taken to “humanise” the game and preserve its spirit. They hide behind the rare failings of technology to protest against its use in sport.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Take, for example, the use of the Video Assistant Referee in football, where video replays are used to help the on-field referee do his job better and reduce human error. VAR isn’t perfect, but at present, using it is the closest we can get to eliminating mistakes in the game. No one wants a situation where your beloved club is disadvantaged by the limited human capabilities. VAR has, and will continue to face flak in the future, but it is important to realise what a significant step this is for the future of football. Amongst all the historic moments, there have been times when monumental sporting events might have turned out differently with the support of technology.

It is important for us to realise the scale of the technology being used in sport, and more importantly, its role. You won’t get to witness eleven robots take on Manchester United in front of 50,000 fans at Old Trafford, at least not anytime soon. In the foreseeable future, players and coaches will continue to be the chief protagonists in the journey. Technology was always meant to play the supporting cast, enhancing and enriching the sporting experience for those on and off the pitch.

In that respect, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning promise to be highly effective tools going forward. Imagine if you had an unbiased robot with terabytes of memory scour infinite amounts of data to find the next great player for your team. Imagine if you could have a machine analyse a player’s every movement and every step and predict his or her performance in the future. Imagine if coaches had a virtual assistant, helping them coax the best out of their players with effective strategies and innovative methods. The possibilities are endless.    

The cry for more technology in sport is now almost deafening. Technology is advancing every day. The sporting world must embrace it, or risk being rendered obsolete.    

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Life without the Internet

Question: “What are the most essential things in life?”

Answer 1 (year 1900) – Food, Shelter, and water.

Answer 2 (year 2017) – Wi-Fi, Food, and Wi-Fi.

You’re alone at home on a hot summer day. Your internet connection is down, and, fortunately, you have no homework for the day. How would you spend your day?

Catch up on the latest Netflix TV shows?

Oh wait.

Scroll through your news feed on Facebook and text your friends on WhatsApp?

Oops.

Order a new pair of shoes on Amazon?

Uh oh…

The internet has taken over our lives more than any of us can ever imagine. Restaurant and hotel bookings, hospital appointments, online shopping, Online tutorials…. The list goes on. Entire businesses depend on the internet. The latest smartphones and wearable devices would be equivalent to junk without the holy grail that is the internet. Researchers have spent more working hours on the intricacies of the World Wide Web than we can possibly imagine. So, what would it be like if the internet suddenly vanished?

Day 1 – Utter chaos. Software giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook suddenly don’t exist anymore. Millions of hours’ worth of video is lost from YouTube. Shock and chaos prevails. Conspiracy theories abound. Thousands of people take their phones to ask Yahoo answers “What happened to the Internet”…. and then throw their phone away in despair. Planes are delayed, doctor appointments are cancelled, and e-mail…well it’s just “mail” now.

Image result for life without internet memes    Image result for life without internet memes

Day 7 –  People realise those pending Amazon orders will never arrive. Online streaming is no longer a thing – “Netflix and chill” is no more the world’s favourite pastime – and we are forced to watch TV.   Humans are now used to talking to each other face to face. The number of “friends” we have goes down from 567 to 2. Phones are used for actual calling. The number of apps on our phone drops from 100 to 10. Approximately 95% of the population can’t get from point A to point B, because you can’t ask Google Maps to navigate for you anymore.  

Day 100 – A meme-less world has now been created. The word “viral” is obsolete. “YouTuber” is no longer a job opportunity. Without online gaming, EA Sports and 2K Sports post record losses. Bill Gates is still the richest man alive. People actually buy clothes, gadgets and food from physical stores. Everyone is suddenly working ten times harder, and productivity is through the roof.

Day 365 – Apple comes up with its own version of the World Wide Web, called the “iWeb”. Life returns to normal.